By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria, alongside 13 other African countries, is among the top 20 finalists for the Jack Ma Foundation-promoted prize for entrepreneurs across the continent to showcase the best of their entrepreneurial spirit and drive for a chance to enter the Top 10 at the grand finale.
The 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, a flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), has shortlisted the top 20 entrepreneurs who now have a chance to become one of the 10 entrepreneurs entering the grand finale, and competing for their share of the $1.5 million prize pool.
The top 20 entrepreneurs have come a long way from the pool of over 22,000 applications that ABH garnered from all 54 African nations earlier this year.
The organisers lauded the level of female representation, which stood at 55 per cent and noted that the average age of the group is 34. They represent 11 key sectors and industries of the African economy, such as agriculture, fashion, education, healthcare, manufacturing, e-commerce, renewable energy, financial services, food & beverage services, retail, transportation, and span 14 countries (Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe).
Speaking on the initiative, Mr Jason Pau, Senior Advisor for International Programs with the Jack Ma Foundation, said “As we approach the final phases of the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes competition, I am incredibly impressed by the talent and energy of the entrepreneurs we have met during the selection process.
“This is no surprise though, as we are aware of the strength of the entrepreneurial spirit of Africa and the unique drive of businesswomen and businessmen in the continent. This strengthens, even more, the commitment of the Jack Ma Foundation to spotlight today and tomorrow’s African entrepreneurs, supporting them while they build successful businesses and positively impact their local communities”.
On Tuesday, August 18, the top 20 Africa’s Business Heroes finalists had the opportunity to participate in a second virtual Bootcamp, a unique event to exchange and learn from inspiring personalities from the African entertainment, sports and entrepreneurship scene – including Ms Anita Erskine, UN SDG Advocate and ANPI’s Brand Ambassador and Official Host of “Africa’s Business Heroes” program; NBA Hall of Fame inductee and philanthropist Mr Dikembe Mutombo; Mr Sean Tong, Partner at Boyu Capital Advisory and Jack Ma Foundation’s Board Member; and the top three finalists from last year’s debut edition of ABH, Ms Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Mr Omar Sakr and Ms Christelle Kwizera.
Speakers at the Bootcamp webinar reminded candidates that despite the current unprecedented circumstances, entrepreneurs who can adapt, be flexible and react quickly will also be able to unlock opportunities. Discipline, passion and dedication are also essential elements to accomplish any dream and goal.
Moving forward in the competition, solid communications and storytelling will also be crucial for the finalists to illustrate their business in a compelling and clear way, bringing to life the values that set their business apart and create a positive impact on their communities and across Africa.
Highlighting the investor point of view, Mr Sean Tong emphasized that a great vision should always come with a relentless pursuit of excellence and execution.
He added: “I am very excited to see the excellent quality of the business projects at Africa’s Business Heroes this year, and the remarkable dedication and passion these entrepreneurs have put into turning them into successful and investable enterprises.
“While progressing through the competition, it will be very important for the candidates to demonstrate even more clearly the viability of their ventures and how they are able to match their vision with sustainability and profitability. I wish them all the best of luck on this journey and beyond – they are already Africa’s Business Heroes”.
The candidates will now progress to the semi-final stage of the competition and will face even more intense scrutiny from a 7-judge panel, which will test the solidity of their business plans, their motivation and vision, and ability to clearly articulate why the ground-breaking nature of their ideas can solve pressing problems and catalyse change for society, inspiring others to do the same.
The semi-final judges have been selected from amongst leading entrepreneurs, VCs and start-up accelerators, and distinguished public figures in Africa.
The selection process to spotlight the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes finalists will continue over the next few weeks. Following the semi-final pitch, the top 10 finalist roster will be revealed in the next few months.
ABH will culminate in a grand finale show later this year, where the ten finalists will take the stage to pitch to business mavens, including Messrs Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, and Strive Masiyiwa.
Cyber Attacks: Africa Must Encourage Digital Skills Development—Experts
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Urgent steps must be taken by African leaders to encourage general digital skills to tackle cyber-attacks and crimes on the continent, some experts in the industry have advised.
Speaking at the April edition of the Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) event, the stakeholders warned that if efforts are not taken, the governments, citizens and businesses may suffer “catastrophic consequences.”
It was stressed that at the moment, Africa is struggling to match its counterparts in the other parts of the globe due to a shortage of general digital skills caused by brain drain.
At the workshop themed Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Quagmire, the founder/CEO of Digital Jewels, Mrs Doyin Odunfa, in her presentation, lamented that the shortage of general digital skills at all levels is expected to become more critical as economies grow, noting that the supply of digitally skilled labour must also increase to meet anticipated labour market needs.
She observed that highly skilled African professionals have been emigrating from African countries to pursue lucrative cultural and socio-economic opportunities on other continents leading to a brain drain and skills gap on the continent.
Whilst proffering solutions, she recommended intentional development of digital skills at all levels, smart technology support, collaboration with the Diaspora and strategic supply to Africa and Western economies.
“These young Africans are looking for higher-paying jobs outside Africa to escape socio-economic limitations such as poverty, limited infrastructure, and rudimentary jobs.
“They look for enabling environments in developed countries that provide rewarding businesses and obtain lucrative jobs, matching skilled individuals’ aspirations and expected socio-economic recompense.
“Many highly talented African students that obtain opportunities and scholarships of training abroad do not return home after completing studies,” Mrs Odunfa stated.
In his welcome address, the president of ISSAN, Mr David Isiavwe, said the brain drain in Africa as well as the digital skills shortage currently being experienced around the world calls for concern.
According to him, “The cyber threat landscape is still evolving. The cybersecurity space keeps getting very busy by the day. We have seen how daring cybercriminals can be, targeting both national assets and highly reputable firms. Even individuals are not left out.
“Consequently, it becomes imperative that organizations never relent in upholding and reinforcing information security best practices.”
The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Stanbic IBTC, Abumere Igboa; CISO of Heritage Bank, Eduje Ighoakpo; CISO of First Bank, Harrison Nnaji; CISO of Standard Chartered Bank, Oghenefovie Oyawari and the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Digital Jewels, Tokunbo Taiwo, were the other speakers at the gathering.
ISSAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace. It is significantly involved in ensuring the security of banking systems and applications, ATMs, e-government systems, and the entire cyberspace in Nigeria.
The group also seeks to achieve its objectives through awareness heightening measures including the promotion of appropriate legislation and best practices.
Membership cuts across both public and private sectors of the economy including Banks, Telecommunications Operators, Government parastatals, switching companies, IT and IT security consultancies, Legal Practitioners with a keen interest in cyber-related matters, and regulators.
Interswitch Receives Fresh Funds from LeapFrog, Tana
By Adedapo Adesanya
LeapFrog Investments (LeapFrog) and Tana Africa Capital (Tana) have invested in Interswitch, one of Africa’s technology-driven companies focused on the digitisation of payments.
In a joint statement from both companies, the exact amount was not disclosed, but it was stated that the investment will assist in supporting the company’s drive to advance the payment ecosystem across the continent.
A portion of the investment has been acquired from existing shareholders, with Ignite Holdco Limited, made up of Helios Investment Partners and TA Associates, remaining the largest shareholder in the business following the transaction.
Interswitch Group CEO, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, in a statement, said the company was “excited to welcome LeapFrog and Tana on board, as we continue our work to advance the future of the African payments landscape.”
This will further advance its offerings after it launched some new products in March.
The services unveiled include an enhanced Biometrics feature for Point of Sale (PoS) terminals & Automated Teller Machines (ATMs); Tokenization, and Card Fusion, with the services addressing digital payment fraud, problems with card issuance and portfolio management.
Interswitch, in collaboration with SterlingPRO, designed the Biometrics on Point of Sale (PoS) and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to protect customers against digital payment fraud and to avail them faster and more convenient ways to validate payments. The solution utilizes physiological features unique to everyone such as fingerprints, voice, and facial features to verify payment transactions.
Tokenization on the other hand replaces sensitive data such as the 16-digit account information with a unique digital identifier known as a token. Tokenization will enable merchants to fast-track and collect payment seamlessly, enabling customers to check out faster in-store, in-app and online.
In addition, Card Fusion is a web-based instant card issuance platform that enables banks to conclude new card production requests and issue cards within a very short time, thus enhancing their customers’ experience while customers get to personalize their cards instantly.
Interswitch is one of Africa’s largest electronic payments and infrastructure companies and services providing online banking system offerings in areas like point-of-sale terminals, online consumer payment platforms, Quickteller, and Verve, the biggest domestic debit card scheme in Africa, issuing over 35 million active cards since launch.
Ramadan: Twitter Conversation Increases 31% in 2022
By Adedapo Adesanya
In 2022, Twitter was the place to be for the most interesting, important and impactful Ramadan conversations, with over 47 million related Tweets recorded globally during the holy month. This represented a 31 per cent year on year increase from last year, reflecting Twitter’s role as the place to discover what is happening in real-time.
From well-wishes to fashions and bants, it was all shades of amazing as Nigerians joined Islamic faithful across the globe to commemorate the holy month, from start to finish.
Trending conversations on the platform centred around faith, style, food, entertainment and so much more, as people on Twitter shared how they were marking the end of Ramadan.
Twitter provided a platform to showcase the shared experience of attending morning prayers, making charitable donations, sharing feasts and showing up in the glamorous fits and looks. Below are some highlights from this year’s Ramadan celebrations.
Some of the top Ramadan hashtags and keywords on TwitterNG that trended during the Ramadan celebration were – #Arewatwitter; #EidUlFitr; #BarkaDaSallah; #EidMubarak2022; #Ramadan; Abaya; Ilorin.
Fashion and Styles during the celebration were not exempted as the end of Ramadan is celebrated with the most elegant fashion styles on display. Using #ArewaTwitter, Muslims across Nigeria share photos from Eid celebrations; with people in the North, where Islam is most widely practised, being especially praised for their iconic looks. As expected, people on #TwitterNG brought out their best Abaya game!
Heartfelt Felicitations on #TwitterNG were a presence with Barka Da Sallah was widely used on #TwitterNG as a way of sending well-wishes during the celebrations. And using #EidUlFitr, #EidMubarak2022 #Ramadan, the Muslim community also dropped engaging Tweets to commemorate the end of Ramadan.
The banters were also part of the affair. While awaiting the moon sighting update from Saudi Arabia, people on Twitter couldn’t hide their anticipation to end the fast. These hilarious Tweets had Twitter buzzing and cracking up before Eid al-Fitr
Another moment that got people talking was a tweeted photo showing a dense crowd of people in a popular mall in Ilorin.
Top government officials and influencers also engaged in conversations during Ramadan with President Muhammadu Buhari ( @MBuhari) tweeting for the first time in a while, wishing the TwitterNG community Ramadan Mubarak.
Mr Yemi Osinbajo, The Vice President of Nigeria also wished people on Twitter a Happy Eid al-Fitr.
Ramadan Tweets from across the globe were also added to global conversations highlights related to the holy month:
The symbol used to send salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ﷺ was Tweeted almost 4 million times, while top Ramadan-related emojis included:
🌙 (A crescent moon); 🙏🏽 (Folded hands );🕌 (mosque); 🙏🏽 (Palms held up together)
Top Ramadan hashtags Tweeted at a global level included:
#العشر_الاواخر (Last 10 days of Ramadan)
Twitter, in celebration of Eid Al Fitr, released a hashtag-triggered emoji of the crescent moon when these hashtags below were used during the week of Eid.
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