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Business News

Second edition of Jack Ma’s Africa Netpreneur Prize opens for applications

Applications for the second edition of the Africa Netpreneur Prize has been announced by the Jack Ma Foundation

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IPO, World's Biggest IPO suspended, Jack Ma's second edition of Africa Netpreneur Prize opens for applications

Applications for the second edition of the Africa Netpreneur Prize has been announced by the Jack Ma Foundation. The application process is open to 54 African countries, although only ten participants will make it to the finale and share a prize pool of $1.5 million; up from $1 million last year.

The entrepreneurship initiative was created to identify Africa’s next generation founders through the “Africa’s Business Heroes” (ABH) initiative. Last year, Nigeria’s Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and Chief Executive Officer of LifeBank, was announced as Africa’s Business Hero.

Ten entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their local communities, solving the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future will be selected to compete for the final pitch competition that will be broadcasted online

According to the organisers, applications will now be accepted in English and French. In a statement obtained by Nairametrics, it was disclosed that about 10,000 applications were received from 50 African countries last year. That number could increase in 2020.

(READ MORE: Ecobank partners Jack Ma’s Alipay to ease money transfer across borders)

The competition is open to various industries, including cloud kitchens, tech agribusiness, healthcare and pharma, e-commerce, consumer goods, and water supply solutions. Interested entrepreneurs are urged to visit the organiser’s site on: africabusinessheroes.org. The application closing date has been fixed for June 9, 2020. The top ten finalists will be announced in September 2020.

Jack Ma's second edition of Africa Netpreneur Prize opens for applications

The world is in need of groundbreaking idea: Speaking on the situation surrounding this year’s edition, Jason Pau, the Senior Advisor for International Programmes for Jack Ma Foundation said: 

“We find ourselves in unprecedented and extraordinary times. Now, more than ever, we need entrepreneurs with courage, initiative, and vision to do what they do best – solve problems for society.

“With this prize competition, we are looking to inspire and reward African business heroes in all sectors and encourage any aspiring applicants to seize this opportunity to break through barriers and create hope for the future.”

READ MORE: World Economic Forum: Globalisation and the African entrepreneur

The $1.5 million is part of the $100 million grant funding created for African entrepreneurs by the foundation. The ANP plans to identify 100 African entrepreneurs in the next ten years. Aside from funding, participants will experience training programmes and support for the broad African entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Anchor Partners, including Ashesi, Dalberg, Janngo and RiseUp will join forces with ANP to identify and support African entrepreneurs for this year’s edition. ANP also has on its advisory board, Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary-General and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens.

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Olalekan is a certified media practitioner from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ). In the era of media convergence, Olalekan is a valuable asset, with ability to curate and broadcast news. His zeal to write was developed out of passion to shape people’s thought and opinion; serving as a guideline for their daily lives. Contact for tips: [email protected]

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Around the World

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala resumes first day as WTO Director-General

Dr Okonjo-Iweala officially resumed duty as the DG of the WTO today, March 1, 2021.

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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian Finance Minister and the first woman and African to be appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organization resumed her first day of work as WTO chief.

This was disclosed in a social media statement on Monday morning by the WTO. Okonjo-Iweala said the WTO has lots of work to do and she feels ready to start

The trade organisation said: “Welcome to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her first day as WTO Director-General! She makes history as the first woman and first African to take up this post.”

On her first day, Dr. Iweala said she is “coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do. I feel ready to go.”

What you should know 

  • On February 15th 2021, Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was officially appointed as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
  • The United States and former Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Joe Keshi pointed out that the only way Nigeria as a country can benefit from her appointment is by being productive.
  • “She will not help you unless you are productive, she will not help you except you have something to sell, because her role as a DG of the World Trade Organization, the World Trade Organization is an organization that regulates global trade and except you have something to sell and you know put into the world market her role is to ensure that you get a fair deal and that you are not cheated in the whole process,” he said.

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Corporate Press Releases

Capitalism must be balanced with socialism – Niyi Adenubi

Niyi Adenubi, Executive Director at VFD Group chats about investments, capitalism and much more.

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The Executive Director, Institutional Business and Investor Relations, at VFD Group, Niyi Adenubi recently sat for a chat with Chinasa Ken-Ugwuh on her radio show called Social Conscious with ‘Nasa hosted on Africa Business Radio.

The focus was on the 21st-century capitalists’ dilemma: Social Impact or Profitable Value Creation. The conversation also featured ex-Diamond Bank GMD and Chief Sparkler at Sparkle, Uzoma Dozie.

As today’s corporate executives build and the world changes more and more, it has become apparent that the capitalism as practiced from aeons may not be suitable for the yonder. “You have to balance economic prosperity and social development to take all stakeholders into consideration,” Niyi says.

Enjoy excerpts:

Who are the most critical stakeholders in your view – are they the customers and employees?

I think customers and employees are critical stakeholders. I totally agree. The most critical stakeholders are your customers because customers are directly correlated with your profitability. If you cannot serve your customers right, they will go somewhere else, and you will be losing money. They are always the number one. But a very close second in our company, is our employees. And it is very important especially now that we are hiring young people. We have graduate trainees’ programmes. These people come to us straight from university. Millennials and Generation Z are very different in terms of their aspirations. So, it is very important for us to start building our own culture in our company to manage them so that they can be optimal. We also have a minimum pay structure – one that ensures that everyone that works in VFD earns a certain minimum. This is very important. Of course, our regulator is quite important too and on the last, but not least are our capital providers – bankers, equity providers and shareholders – they are very important too.

How is VFD reacting to investors’ expectations on capitalism?

I think the investors are ready for this change. COVID has accelerated the pace for most people. The days of running a business primarily and solely for shareholders are gone. I think even employees demand that we are socially conscious. When we started our ESG program at the company, it was to make our internal stakeholders happy and we have been pushing for this for a long time. Ever since we became quite successful, we have been able to give back and that has encouraged our staff to give more in some of the things we do. On the social and governance side I think we have done quite a lot in our organization.

Do you believe in stakeholders’ capitalism over shareholders capitalism? Do you agree with the idea?

I sincerely believe in it. About six or seven years ago, I read this book by a French economist, Thomas Piketty, called ‘’Capitalism in the 21st century.’’ It was basically the summary of what is now trending and which the world is going through. We see more poverty, more famine, more climate change dislocating more farmers, more inequality in the world. For me, that was a wake-up call personally. It suggested that the world was returning to an age where the middle class is being eradicated.

I just picture a world where, for example, Nigeria, where the inequality is just so wide, that there will be security issues as we have now. At VFD Group we are very conscious to educate our shareholders of the importance of all stakeholders’ management; for example, the environment in which we are operating must benefit directly from what we are doing. Our staff must be directly beneficial both from the point of salary and profit-sharing and from the general standard of living. We will not squeeze ourselves just to maximize or earn an extra dollar. All those things are very important to me since I came to that actualization six or seven years ago, I have tried to incorporate them in the policies that shape the Group’s ESG and CSR policies.

At the point when you started to think like this, was there any resistance and how did you try to persuade them?

Yes, I think there is always resistance to change. But in my situation, there was none. It was quite logical.
Just look at the calculation that we did. On the return on capital, we always exceed the growth rate of the economy which means that richer people will go in a certain direction and if you don’t incorporate the right policy you will be squeezing the middle and getting more people poorer. So, it was not that hard to do and even on the investors’ relations side, even our local investors are aligning to the ideas. So, it has not been that difficult and with COVID we have pushed more in that direction.

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Most corporate leaders are moving into philanthropism these days. Do you think that there is capitalism agenda behind this CSR?

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I think there is a way that the world works and until we find a better way, we just have to use it. So, I completely understand what you are saying.

If I give money to a cause just because I want something back in return and if that is the motivation for me to do well and make that cause to happen, that will be my legacy. It is not bad. I particularly like the kind of philanthropy that is done in America. Americans give more money than anybody in the world. They also make more money than any body in the world. When they build a new hospital or when they build a new library or research center in a university, they want it name after them or stuff like that.

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What is your view on socialism?

I do agree that this is the period we should wear our socialism tag. At the height of the lockdown, it was very obvious that in a place like Nigeria where there are no social safety nets, asking people to stay at home while they are can’t feed, and their children are crying and dying, will make them become aggressive. And I believed the fallout of the #ENDSARS protests was as a result of that. We need to have a more balanced approach in handling problems. For me, I believe that more Nigerians are dying of hunger than are dying of COVID-19.

On CACOVID’s Covid-19 interventions

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I think the identification project is a very crucial one. The BVN project was a big one too. Once we get identification right in the country, that should solve a lot of our infrastructural problems in terms of identifying people to give them the palliatives or to send money to their accounts and to avert all those other disasters that happened to CACOVID. The uproar surrounding CACOVID could have been avoided if we had a way of identifying ourselves.

Do you find that your value, vision, and mission at VFD addresses all the stakeholders?

At VFD Group, our mission statement says in part about building a socially conscious ecosystem from the environment that we are operating. It is top priority for us as I said.

Our stakeholders are quite excited about it. Our customers are quite excited about it; our employees are quite excited about it and our shareholders are excited about it. It has always been a very conscious and deliberate thing for us.

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One part of it is to have this statement, how does it translate into the culture?

We have these recurring strategy sessions where we set goals for the organization. We are a goal-setting organization. Every year, we ask what we want to achieve that will be in line and in tune with our mission statement. We list them and through the course of the year, we evaluate for execution. We carry everybody along that helps us.

How else are you able to demonstrate this value apart from goal setting?

Our values are innovation, integrity, teamwork, and newly empathy. I would like to talk specifically on empathy. We had a strategy session in 2018 or thereabout to prepare for the new year and empathy generated a lot of debate in the organization amongst everybody.

The whole idea when we were pushing for empathy as a value is that it should drive our business. The key thing is if you can put yourself in the shoe of the other person either customers or another colleague or your regulator or your auditor and understand where they are coming, from there is less friction and it solves the problem. Our work is about providing solution.

If a customer calls and you answer the phone and maybe cannot solve the problems at that point because you don’t work directly in that business. For example, a customer calls for something with V Bank and the person that answers the call works with the Asset Management subsidiary, it is expected that you attempt to solve the problem before transferring in a professional way. Empathy does not mean that you are soft or vulnerable.

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