Awards for Africa

ENTREPRENEURS from all across the continent have been given the green light to enter the elite Africa Entrepreneurship Awards in 2011.

Last year small business owners from only 15 countries were eligible to vie for the prestigious competition, with South African company Tutuka Software scooping runner-up place.

The countries that competed were Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

Competition is set to get stiffer this year, following a call for more applicants at the official opening of the event in Sandton.

The contest recognises and rewards African business leaders who embody the entrepreneurial spirit and demonstrate the right qualities to succeed in business.

Founded four years ago by Legatum, a private international investment group, and philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network, the competition initially involved just five countries.

The two companies said one of the reasons for opening the contest to a broader audience was so that entrepreneurship in Africa would benefit.

The bigger picture is that Africa will be the main winner, as the awards aim to motivate businesspeople from the entire continent to be innovative and uplift communities.

"Entrepreneurs hold the reins of Africa's future and the Africa Awards programme is evidence of the business revolution that is now sweeping the continent," said Legatum MD Alan McCormick, adding that excellence has no boundaries.

Said McCormick: "We believe that neither location nor size of the population is a barrier to world class entrepreneurs... Entrepreneurs drive local economies, create jobs, support communities, and deliver the most effective solution to sustainable development.

"They are the inspirational role models who are crucial to the future of Africa's continued growth."

Omidyar Network managing partner Matt Bannick said encouraging an entrepreneurial culture is the way to go.

"We share the belief that motivated entrepreneurs can foster positive social impact from within Africa," he said.

Have you got what it takes?

Last year 2 700 entries were received from 15 countries, among them 100 applications from South African business owners.

But if as a homegrown entrepreneur you don't see why an award is such a big deal, consider the fact that there will also be $350 000 in prizes.

The grand prize winner will win $100 000, while five other finalists will be awarded $50 000 each. Applicants will be evaluated in key areas such as profitability, return on investment and growth.

Long-term strategy, culture and values as well as the entrepreneur's leadership will also be scrutinised. Other aspects to be considered are investment in employees, innovation in addressing market needs and contribution to the community.

To be eligible you must have a profitable, growing enterprise which generates between $1m and $15m. 

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