Four young entrepreneurs addressing problems in francophone Africa
The search for this year’s top young African entrepreneurs is currently underway as The Anzisha Prize committee works through 339 applications from across the continent.
The competition recognises and celebrates African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22 who are using business to solve problems in their communities and will be announcing this year’s 12 finalists in the upcoming months.
This year, The Anzisha Prize accepted applications in French and Arabic, in addition to English, to better cater to the languages spoken in francophone and North Africa. According to Chi Achebe, The Anzisha Prize programme manager, 2014 marked an increase in applications from French-speaking countries, most notable from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).The competition also received entries from Togo and Burundi for the first time this year.
While the reviewers are still evaluating entries, How we made it in Africa looks at some of these young applicants who are using entrepreneurship to solve problems in francophone Africa.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Finalists for The Anzisha Prize have not been announced. The entrepreneurs profiled below have been selected randomly and are not necessarily winners.
Customising extension cords – Koffi Amenyo Akagla, 22, Togo
Koffi Amenyo Akagla is the co-founder and chief financial officer of Super Energie, a company that predominately makes customised extension cords for the local market in Togo.
The idea started in 2010 when Akagla and his friends were still in high school and realised that there was a demand for locally-made extension cords as the ones coming in from Europe were too expensive, and those imported from Ghana were incompatible. After winning a school entrepreneurial competition, where they produced their first extension cord, the team started Super Energie.
Akagla said that the company currently sells around 90 extension chords per month, and is employing five people full time, with an additional five part-time employees to assist with large orders.
Akagla has plans to expand Super Energie across Togo and Africa.
Skills development and microfinance – Patrick Muyali, 21, DRC
Patrick Muyali is from a family of nine children and lives in Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2007 his father lost his job and the family struggled financially. After meeting the team at the Congo Leadership Initiative, an organisation aiming to develop the next generation of Congolese leaders to catalyse peace and prosperity, he learnt about social entrepreneurship.
“[They] made me see that it was possible; that I am a solution to problems, not only my family’s but also in the community because there [are lots] of young people with the same problems as a result of war, poverty, rape, etc.”
In November 2012, Muyali started Cantine Hope for Africa, a community-based organisation that helps people help each other through entrepreneurial training and microfinance. Hope for Africa also sells, at minimum cost, clothes and food to impoverished families, and reinvests earnings back into the community. So far the organisation has four employees and supports 26 families.
Information for antenatal and newborn health – Nteff Alain, 22, Cameroon
Nteff Alain, a telecommunications engineering student with a diploma in computer and mathematics, has a passion for using technology to solve problems in his community. Last year he co-founded the mobile health platform, GiftedMom, with a group of medical and engineering students, doctors, health and community workers.
The project uses low cost technologies to help improve the health of pregnant women and newborns in underserviced communities in Cameroon. It makes use of web and mobile platforms to provide women with vital information concerning pregnancy and newborn health.
“I started the GiftedMom project last year when I noticed pregnant women and newborns in my country are literally dying every day from pregnancy related complications, which can be prevented. My project is therefore aimed at solving this problem, which is very critical in my country, using mobile technology.”
Alain said he started the project in November in the Mankon community of northwestern Cameroon, in collaboration with the Mankon Sub-Divisional Hospital. By the end of March, 112 pregnant women and mothers with newborns had subscribed for weekly informative messages and reminders concerning antenatal care and vaccination programmes.
GiftedMom has expanded to five other communities in Cameroon.
“I also developed the GiftedMom Android application which provide guides for first time and teenage mothers, and health workers are also using it to calculate the due dates of pregnant women in their districts,” said Alain.
By the end of the year he hopes that GiftedMom will have assisted 5,000 pregnant women and mothers.
Solar-powered water purification – Saad El Asri, 21, Morocco
Saad El Asri is one of five students studying engineering who created a system to purify drinking water with solar energy. In November 2013 he co-founded Solar Water with the aim to decrease the number of deaths resulting from dirty water in Morocco and the continent. Contaminated water causes diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery.
“In many parts of Africa, hundreds of people die each year related to unsafe water diseases. To stop this silent slaughter, we thought of the project Solar Water. This is a draft design of devices for treatment of water by solar energy. These devices… will be for sale to households who cannot access drinking water.”
The first prototype was implemented in a village in southern Morocco last year. By May 2014 the startup had sold dozens of systems, providing over 400 people with access to drinking water.
The solar powered water purification system costs roughly $25 to make and is sold for about $38, providing an environmentally friendly, life-long alternative to buying bottles of still water. The company has trained six people, who were previously unemployed, in making and selling the system. Asri said that he and his team take 20% of all revenues to finance research and site visits.
“We plan to develop our project, working mainly on two aspects: the conquest of new markets and research,” explained Asri. “We are continually, since the launch of the project, seeking to improve our device. Increasing efficiency, reducing congestion and minimising the production cost are our main occupations.”
Asri added that they are also looking to implement their system in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and India.>>>