Why local start-ups should tap opportunities offered by entrepreneurship competitions

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Ishimwe (right) and the other two local start-up operators at the TEEP forum in Lagos last year.

Do you have an innovative business idea and are seeking to sharpen your skills or secure funding to implement it? Your start-up could also have potential to expand and create jobs for others, but you lack funding. Now, you have the opportunity to unleash that potential, thanks to the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.

The annual continental entrepreneurship support programme is calling for application for its 2017 cohort. The contest is designed to identify entrepreneurs with potential to contribute to the growth of business ecosystem in Africa, and encourages innovative African start-ups, including Rwandans, to apply for the programme by March 1, according to a statement from the foundation.

“We encourage women, French, Arabic and Portuguese speakers and anyone with a business idea from every region across Africa to apply. The 2,000 programme alumni are already growing their businesses and improving lives. If you have a transformational business or an idea, we have an opportunity for you,” said Parminder Vir, the Tony Elumelu Foundation chief executive officer.

Established in 2015, the TEF entrepreneurship programme is a 10-year initiative with $100 million commitment to train, mentor and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs across the continent.

It also seeks to promote self-reliance, help African start-ups access much-needed funding and mentorship to develop sustainable businesses, spur growth across the continent and reduce unemployment.

TEEP opportunities

A total of 1,000 entrepreneurs will be selected for the third edition of the programme based on viability of their ideas, including market opportunity, financial understanding, scalability, and leadership and entrepreneurial skills demonstrated in the application, according to the statement.

Finalists undergo a 12-week intensive online training to enhance their skills in their given fields and also get $5,000 (about Rwf4.2 million) in non-refundable seed capital and another $5,000 in form of a convertible loan.

Tony Elumelu, the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, says the programme is a deliberate effort to “institutionalise luck and provide the essentials for entrepreneurship growth for Africa’s next generation of business leaders”.

“It is a demonstration of my faith in this generation’s ability to transform the African narrative, from that of disease and poverty, to one of enterprise and opportunity,” he noted in the statement.

Past local participants

Thirty-five Rwandan start-ups have qualified for the programme, 15 in the first edition, while 20 were selected last year. Those who have been part of the programme encourage other local entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunity it presents upcoming businesses. The programme receives business ideas covering all sectors of the economy.

“This is a chance for entrepreneurs that seek to improve business management skills since finalists undergo an intensive training and mentorship programme,” said Yvette Ishimwe, one of the previous participants from the Class of 2016.

Ishimwe runs Iriba Clean Water Delivery, a water distribution business in drought prone Kayonza District.

She said the programme enabled her to network with diverse groups of entrepreneurs from all over the continent, besides accessing the seed capital funding and business mentorship. Interested Rwandan start-up operators can apply via https://application.tonyelumelufoundation.org/.

Rwanda Decides