A Kenyan entrepreneur, Tesh Mbaabu, of retail-tech startup MarketForce will be smiling all the way to the bank after she won Ksh30 million from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma-backed Jack Ma Foundation.
Mbaabu emerged among three winners, alongside Tanzania’s Elia Timotheo and Egypt’s Nadia Gamal El Din, in the Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition valued at Ksh183 million (USD1.5 million).
Timotheo, who founded Agri-Tech startup East Africa Fruits, was the winner pocketing Ksh36.6 million (USD300,000) followed by Mbaabu and Gamal, who founded motherhood support platform Rahet Bally, who won Ksh18.3 million (USD150,000) and rounded up the top three.
The competition attracted over 21,000 applicants which were then narrowed down to only 10 finalists.
Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma
Twitter The finalists were then flown to South Africa where they pitched their ideas at a Grand Finale that saw the three individuals emerge victorious.
The other seven finalists were offered Ksh12 million (USD100,000) each to scale their start-ups and businesses.
Jason Pau, the executive director of international programmes at the Jack Ma Foundation, noted that the winners were recognised for their leadership as well as passion among other business-related attributes.
The entrepreneurs also demonstrated an unwavering zest despite operating at a challenging time both economically and health-wise.
“The winners of the 2022 Africa’s Business Heroes competition embody the incredible entrepreneurial spirit in the region. The judges recognised them for their leadership, passion, and ability to drive positive impact across Africa through their businesses.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges of the past two years, these entrepreneurs have inspired us all with their resilience and unwavering commitment to their businesses and communities,” explained Pau.
The prize sets out to inspire and offer support the next generation of African entrepreneurs building a sustainable future for the African economy.
The foundation aims to uplift a total of 100 start-ups founded in Africa in a span of 10 years.
In February, Mbaabu and his co-founder, Mesongo Sibuti, raised Ksh4.5 billion (US$40 million) in a Series A to scale their company Marketforce which was founded in Nairobi.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter at Marketforce. We just closed a Ksh4.5 billion ($40 million) Series A funding round led by V8 Capital Ventures and are one step closer to achieving our goal of being the largest B2B commerce & fintech marketplace in Africa.
“We are extremely humbled by the support that we’ve received throughout our journey and very grateful to our community of customers, partners and investors, for believing in our team and mission,” stated Mbaabu at the time.
Marketforce staff visit a shop.