The African Innovation Prize

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The African Innovation Prize

RwandaUnited Kingdom
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A business plan competition for African university students that seeks to harness grassroots entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Much of Africa is in poverty due to a lack of new enterprise development and an overreliance on aid donors. University students possess some of the greatest potential to create these new enterprises but often lack the skills, support and funding to make their ideas a reality and drive economic growth in their home nations.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The mission of the African Innovation Prize is to facilitate this new entrepreneurship by encouraging university students from African countries to commercialize ideas and innovations; we achieve this by creating a pan-African organization that provides inspiration, training and seed funding through business plan competitions for university students across the continent.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other business plan competitions and enterprise development organizations do provide funding and support in the East African region. Some examples of competing business plan competitions include Technoserve, Legatum African Entrepreneurship Awards and the Virgin Unite Awards. AIP’s key differentiating factor is that we specifically target university students only and give these young people the best possible chance to actually gain skills, receive support and ultimately win funding for their business. AIP works with operating partners across the public, NGO and private company spectrum.
About You
The African Innovation Prize
Background Information
First Name


Last Name


The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you


Country of residence of entrepreneur

Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

Since starting university I have always been surprised by the sometimes alarming gap between those people interested in business, technology and entrepreneurship and those with a real ethical drive. This particularly surprised me at Cambridge, where I studied History and Management, as I had expected there to be a more direct correlation between highly educated people and social conscience.
It was my desire to find like minded individuals and inspire others that first drew me into the world of social entrepreneurship.
Since then I have set up two social ventures, the first of which (AIP) I am entering into the competition.
The second was a student organization called Beyond Profit which aimed to empower the next generation to change the way business is done in the future. The theory is that through the new businesses young people create and the attitudes they take into the job market the whole ethos driving business will increasingly accept the need for social and environmental sustainability. Through a diverse program of speaker events, workshops, networking sessions and more the organization acquired over 1000 members which continues to grow since I moved on from the organization.
For this venture I was awarded a Social Entrepreneurship Catalyst Award by Unltd and named as part of Striding Out's Future 100.
I firmly believe the dual experience of setting up these two ventures means I will be able to realize the long term vision for AIP.

About Your Organization
Organization Name

The African Innovation Prize

Organization Country


Country where this project is creating social impact

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The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

Our primary activity is the business plan competition which runs across two phases.

Phase 1 demands that students generate innovative business ideas and communicate them in under 250 words. The best ideas in this “Best Idea Challenge” round win the local currency equivalent of £50. This phase has a separate winner at each university in order to maximise coverage.
The primary aim here is to inspire students and raise awareness that entrepreneurship is a viable option. The impact can be huge with the Kigali Institute of Technology alone receiving over 100 entrants and over 250 students registered to attend a series of training events we ran in July 2011.

Phase 2 demands a more rigorous analysis, writing a full business plan in under 1500 words. Successful participants need to clearly identify and quantify a market niche, as well as build a team to make the idea happen. A successful team wins the local currency equivalent of £500.
The primary aim here is to help students transform their ideas into fully fledged businesses that they can launch following the competition.
This transition has been proven to work with both our Phase 2 winners in 2010 and 2011 going on to launch their businesses.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for 1-5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

Our first social metric is our inspiration and awareness impact which we measure through recording the number of students who enter our competition and who register their interest for training and other events. Since we launched we have had over 200 entrants and had another 250 students attend training or other events.
The second metric is funding impact measured by the amount of money we award through the competition.
AIP will have awarded student entrepreneurs over £5000 by the end of this year's competition.
The final metric is business creation measured by the number of new businesses that result from AIP's activities.
AIP has directly helped create 4 new businesses and organizations since 2009.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

The political climate is currently very pro enterprise in our operating geographies but this could be subject to volatility. In response AIP builds strong lasting relationships with local non-governmental organizations and aims to work directly with students rather than solely relying on institutional support.
The economic climate can make funding the competition more challenging. In response AIP diversifies its income streams and develops a broad array of funding partners from a cross section of private and public organizations.

How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

Financial sustainability is addressed by developing a three tiered funding strategy (see details in next section). Underlying this is our successful strategy of developing long term funding relationships rather than becoming overly reliant on short term solutions.
Social and environmental sustainability primarily affects AIP in terms of how we engage with students and local partners. Firstly, AIP aims to only work with organizations that uphold the same commitment to high social and environmental standards. Secondly, AIP seeks to actively engage local partners rather than work with external organizations. AIP seeks to foster a culture of responsibility and independence that is central to successful enterprise development.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

Social entrepreneurship has the potential to enable developing countries to become industry leaders in the more socially and environmentally aware twenty first century economy. Corporate social responsibility is no longer simply a marketing ploy but now represents an important business function to limit inherent business risk and to operate more efficiently. Entrepreneurs in developing countries are already demonstrating a talent for spotting opportunities in the more socially conscious economy. For example, East Africa is renowned for possessing several high impact solar energy start ups.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

Through the AIP my experience has been primarily working with the top 2%-5% of the educated population who are bright, ambitious and enthusiastic. This is hugely inspiring and rewarding because social impact is often seen very quickly once these students are given the necessary resources to excel.
Living and working with Ugandan farmers will be challenging because it will be a much more direct experience of the poverty that AIP is trying to help local students alleviate through their new businesses. As a result, however, it could prove to be even more rewarding as the experience will undoubtedly demonstrate that talented entrepreneurs are working on local farms as well as studying at universities. Furthermore, having a deeper understanding of the fundamental challenges and lifestyles that local farmers face will only fuel my desire to expand my social ventures.