By Fred Mukhwana

The Mastercard Foundation and African Leadership Academy have selected 22-year-old healthcare entrepreneur Melissa Bime as winner of the US$25,000 Grand Prize at the 8th annual Anzisha Prize awards gala. She is the founder of INFIUSS, an online blood bank and digital supply chain platform that ensures patients in 23 hospitals in Cameroon have life-saving blood when and where they need it. She is only the second woman to win the grand prize since Best Ayiorworth took it home in 2013.

“Today, I stand here to represent every young girl out there that just has her dreams,” said Bime during her acceptance speech. Melissa was selected from among 20 finalists during a ceremony on 23 October that was live streamed to over 3,000 viewers and created a social media buzz across the continent.

The first runner up, 18-year-old Alhaji Siraj Bah will receive US$15,000 in prize money. He is the founder of Rugsal Trading in Sierra Leone, a company that produces handcrafted paper bags as well as briquettes for cooking fuel. Alhaji hopes that the funds will boost the impact his business is already having and will enable him to hire more youth from his community.

Joan Nalubega, 21, was the second-runner up. She is the co-founder of Uganics, which produces mosquito-repellent soap to combat malaria in Uganda. With the US$12,500, she will conduct a certification study for the company’s products and prepare Uganics for export to neighboring countries which will help to widen her impact in the fight against malaria.

The keynote speaker, renowned entrepreneur Sim Shagaya was confident that young entrepreneurs are best placed to solve challenges facing the African continent.

“We are proud of all 20 finalists and are excited to see two young and dynamic women taking home top prizes,” said Koffi Assouan, Program Manager, Mastercard Foundation. “Their contributions will continue to impact their countries and they are role models for other young women across the continent. They are demonstrating how to turn obstacles into opportunities that create value and jobs for others.”

The Anzisha Prize, the premier award for Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs, is a partnership between African Leadership Academy and the Mastercard Foundation. The 20 finalists spent 10 days in a business accelerator camp strengthening their business fundamentals before presenting their ventures to a panel of judges that included Ntuthuko Shezi, Bita Diamomande, Saran Kaba Jones, and Polo Leteka. They join a pool of more than 85 Anzisha Fellows and a network of support that includes access to mentors, experts, and networking. Each returns home with a US$2,500.

“This year was exciting in that we announced our new efforts to support the parents of very young entrepreneurs in Africa,” said Josh Adler, Vice President of Growth and Entrepreneurship at African Leadership Academy. “Our new book – Raising the Boss – uncovers the critical role they play and how we must invest in them if we are to see more young people confidently choosing an entrepreneurship career path post school.”

Applications for the next cycle of the Anzisha Prize will open on 15 February in 2019.

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