The annual Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition, a Jack Ma Foundation's flagship philanthropic programme that supports entrepreneurs, has gained momentum. Sponsored by Alibaba Philanthropy, ABH annually spotlights, trains and supports African entrepreneurs, offering a total of US$1.5 million in grant funding as well as publicity and networking opportunities across the African continent. They also offer training and mentorship programmes along with an amazing network of international leaders and investors. Over 27, 000 entrepreneurs from all 54 countries applied for the 2023 edition, and the ABH judges have meticulously assessed and evaluated each candidate over the past months; leading to the top 20 announcement back in July. Coming next is the semi-finale, where those who successfully pass the due diligence among the top 20 heroes will gather in Kigali, Rwanda and have the opportunity to showcase their remarkable ventures before an esteemed panel of judges. It is from there that the Top 10 and 2023 winners will emerge. Rwandan entrepreneur Albert Munyabugingo, CEO and co-founder of VubaVuba Africa Ltd who is among the ABH 2023 Top 20 finalists, talks about his ABH journey. Excerpts: How did you start VubaVuba Africa Ltd and what prompted you to start a mobile app business? VubaVuba Africa Ltd was founded in January 2020 by Innocent Kaneza and myself. We wanted to build a strong local tech solution for e-commerce. We saw a gap that had been left by Jumia, which exited the Rwandan market in 2019, and decided to retain their former employees who had been left jobless to build a strong local tech solution for e-commerce. We started a mobile app to fill in a gap that we believed we were the best ones to plug. Just this week we launched a new version of the app that we are very excited about as it speaks to growth. What is the focus behind your business and where in Rwanda are you operating? Our focus as VubaVuba Africa Ltd is to make the whole online ordering experience in Rwanda / Africa easy, smooth, reliable and affordable to everyone with access to the internet. Our cities of operation in Rwanda currently are Kigali, Musanze and Rubavu. How has the Rwandan market responded to VubaVuba Africa Ltd? The Rwandan market has become quite knowledgeable about the type of services we offer and responded positively. The early days were a bit difficult as we were just starting but as we collected data on what type of a product the market was looking for, we managed to build a strong product and have gone to command a market share of more than 80%, which shows that we have established a strong footprint and should do even more to keep our customers satisfied and happy. What are some of the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Africa? Gaining the trust of consumers is not easy in our markets; either on the B2B or B2C side where big contracts are still benefiting external ventures. Secondly, I will highlight the lack of infrastructure and digital literacy, which hampers the smooth flow of our business. Lastly; the issue of trust from investors is also key. It takes time to gain their trust for African entrepreneurs. If you look at the amount raised from let’s say Silicon Valley companies and what is on the entire African continent, there is a huge gap. What led you to participate in Africa’s Business Heroes’ 2023 edition? The fact that I want VubaVuba Africa Ltd to be the leading e-commerce platform in Africa and Africa’s Business Heroes is a philanthropic venture sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group, with the latter being a very global pioneer of the e-commerce sector, is the major reason we participated. The prospects of winning the prize and the networks and opportunities that come from being part of the ABH community also played a part. What factors do you believe contributed to your inclusion in the Top 20 of Africa's Business Heroes, and how do you feel about achieving this accomplishment? I think we were selected based on the strong performance the venture VubaVubaAfrica Ltd has recorded in the last three and a half years of our existence. I believe the judges realised that we would make an even bigger impact with more funding. I am excited and I have really learnt a lot through this process; the application process itself makes you really look at your business and you make discoveries you would not have made before. Every step of the competition is exciting and the competitive nature brings with it an edge that keeps you on your feet. Any advice to other entrepreneurs, especially young people who are keen on joining the entrepreneurship journey? My advice is quite simple, build an impactful solution, spend time defining your processes, make them adaptable to your market, and speak to your potential customers to understand their needs and you are set. I believe ABH’s 2023 theme sums it well: It is Africa’s time. We have enough customers for different products if they are well designed for the market. Once you have this sorted; I strongly believe investment will follow you.