The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has appointed the Network of Incubators and Innovators in Nigeria (NINE) as its West Africa regional partner.

In 2014, Chinese billionaire and philanthropist, Jack Ma founded the charitable organisation—Jack Ma Foundation (JMF)—with an aim to promote human development and sustainability across key sectors ranging from education to public health.

The Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma was in Africa last year August to announce the launch of the new "Netpreneur" initiative to support local entrepreneurs building solutions to critical issues on the continent.

TechNext reckons that the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) is the second of such initiatives by Jack Ma to spur African entrepreneurial development, citing eFounders Fellowship as the first.

Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba. // Photo credit: MissTechy

Surprisingly, Jack Ma didn't visit Nigeria on his first visit to Africa in 2017, even though three years ago, he said he was excited to visit Nigeria soon. Yet, the JMF acknowledges that a representative programme for Africans cannot be run with the exclusion of Africa's largest country, hence, their move to appoint NINE as West African regional partner.

It was announced that the Netpreneur Prize will award $10 million to 100 entrepreneurs within the next 10 years. Therefore, each year it will be $1 million to 10 entrepreneurs. Instead of splitting the total prize of $1 million amongst the 10 startups, the JMF has chosen to go the route of a pitch competition, that will see the winner take all.

This prize demonstrates our support of the next generation of young entrepreneurs across Africa who are paving the way for a better future and imparting a positive change in their communities.

Jack Ma, as cited by, TechNext

The solutions put forward by these entrepreneurs would need to be forward-thinking such that it could culminate in a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.

Although it is behind schedule by three months, the ANPI will start accepting applications from March 27 up until June 30, 2019. All the ten finalists that will emerge will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices, and resources.

L-R: Jack Ma speaks with Kago Kagichiri, Co-Founder Eneza Education and Derrick Muturi, Chief Executive Officer of grocery delivery enterprise, Herdy, at Nailab during his maiden visit to Africa. 

Regional partners are expected to mobilise aspiring entrepreneurs across the continent through grassroot outreaches. NINE's appointment comes alongside that of two other regional partners; RiseUp from Egypt and 22 On Sloane from South Africa. Together the three regional partners will be working with the continent partner, Nailab, a Kenyan incubator which also doubles as the regional partner for Eastern Africa.

Nailab works with different organisations from Government, development aid, foundations and corporates that are youth-centric to help design programs aimed at catalyzing innovations, entrepreneurship and job creation. Speaking on their ANPI partnership with the Jack Ma Foundation, Sam Gichuru, Founder and CEO, Nailab remarked that they are excited to work with the regional partners on the mobilisation for the Prize, especially women-founded enterprises.

We are excited to work with these reputable and mission-aligned partners who will help us bring the Prize to all corners of Africa, as well as discover and spotlight a new generation of entrepreneurs from across the continent.

Together with our partners, we will support both technology-driven and traditional companies with a special focus on small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises.

Sam Gichuru, Founder and CEO, Nailab

Graca Machel, a member of ANPI Advisory Board, noted that the regional partners will help support the Prize’s inclusive and community-based approach and praised the Prize’s strong focus on women entrepreneurs.

There are so many undiscovered entrepreneurial heroes, women and men alike, who once unearthed can become game-changers of the African entrepreneurship landscape. I am happy the Africa Netpreneur Prize has decided to make women a priority.

Graca Machel, Board member, ANPI

The Southern Africa partner, 22 On Sloane, is a legacy project of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa (GEN Africa) and home to the largest startup campus on the continent. The organization seeks to nurture the development of new industries by supporting disruptive startups.

The Northern Africa partner, RiseUp, is the creator and organizer of the MENA region’s largest entrepreneurship event, RiseUp Summit. RiseUp is a platform that connects startups with needed resources from across the continent.

NINE, the western partner, is a leading network of incubators in Nigeria supporting the growth of entrepreneurs. Founder, NINE—Bankole Oloruntoba—sees this initiative as a way for Africans to show the potential of African entrepreneurs

We are excited to discover vibrant enterprises that would benefit from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. We believe that the Prize finalists have the power to inspire the continent with their commitment and dedication, as well as show the potential of our African Entrepreneurs.

said, Bankole Oloruntoba, Founder of NINE.

Cover photo: 2018 Panel session at "Netpreneurs: Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions" conference in Johannesburg. Credit: AkiAnastasiou