April 8

Entrepreneurs in Africa Win $400,000 to Fight Poverty

Twelve entrepreneurs won a total of $400,000 in grant funds during a new competition that supports FINCA’s multi-dimensional approach to ending poverty. These changemakers work across sub-Saharan Africa, improving value-add for local farmers, addressing market gaps in health care, combatting sexual exploitation of female fish traders, and more.

In kicking off the FINCA Ventures Prize Competition, FINCA President and CEO Andrée Simon recalled that FINCA was launched 40 years ago around the then-radical idea that giving small loans to people in poverty had the power to transform their lives. Since then, FINCA has provided financial access to tens of millions of people worldwide.

“But we know we need to do more,” Simon said. “So we made the choice to invest in social entrepreneurs with bold visions, disruptive business models and new products or technologies seeking to create meaningful impact for poor and low-income people.” Simon also expressed pride that the majority of finalists in the FINCA Ventures Prize were start-ups founded or cofounded by women.

On March 28, 2024, the 12 finalists competed in four categories, delivering rapid-fire pitch presentations before a panel of investors and an audience that included the United Republic of Tanzania’s Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Dr. Elsie Sia Kanza, Togo’s Ambassador to the U.S., Monsieur Frédéric Edem Hegbe, and Andrew Buop, education attaché from the Embassy of the Republic of Kenya.

The first-place winners in their categories were: Angela Odero, founder of Rio Fish; Ashley Speyer, U.S. Partner of Kazi Yetu; Naom Monari, founder of Bena Care’; and Sona Shah, cofounder of Neopenda. Each secured $70,000 for their organization’s work. Second- and third-place winners won $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.

“We are trying to change the way that products are made and traded between Africa and the rest of the world, and this [grant] support in a women-run business is so impactful for us,” said Speyer, whose female-led agribusiness sources teas, herbs, and spices from farms around Tanzania, and processes, blends, and packs the teas into finished goods in an all-women factory in Dar es Salaam.

Odero agreed.

“FINCA is a one-of-a-kind organization because it really focuses on women entrepreneurs, she said. “For me as a woman of color, raising financing has been my biggest problem.”

During the event, Simon and Greta Bull, Director of Women’s Economic Empowerment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, talked about the need to support women entrepreneurs.

“We know that about 2-3% of venture funding worldwide goes to women. It cannot be the case that women only have 2-3% of the good ideas,” Bull told the audience during a live virtual interview. “If we want to build economic growth in the markets that we care about, we won’t get there if half the population is sitting on the bench,” she continued. “We need to find better ways to get capital to women so they can invest in their good ideas. But we also need to find
ways to buy women time so that they can actually realize those good ideas.”

Bull’s advice to women entrepreneurs: be persistent and confident and support each other.

“Keep at it. Find those like-minded funders, and know that you’re not alone,” she said.

Bene Care will invest their grant to purchase durable medical equipment that will reduce health care costs for 300 families a year. Rio Fish will use its award to subsidize the cost of sensors that help women fish farmers plan for climate events and boost yield. Kazi Yetu plans to expand US sales and take steps to access new markets. Neopenda intends to hire additional staff to increase its impact.

Second-place winners include Baobaby, CheckUps, Sprout, and Technovera/Pelebox. Third-place awards went to Emergency Response Africa, Koolbox, OneHealth, and Sommalife. The FINCA Ventures Prize Competition was made possible by support from a generous donor.

Photo courtesy of 

Source: EIN Presswire (link opens in a new window)

poverty alleviation, startups, women entrepreneurs