The 14th class of Harambeans: 4900 applicants, $130 million raised, 30 innovators
In the spirit of hard-won resilience and deep confidence in the promise of Pan-African entrepreneurship, the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance boldly launched its Prosperity Fund in 2020, despite the global pandemic and its metastasizing impacts on economies across the world. This year, there were 4 900 applications to join the 14th class of Harambeans, and 30 of these, who collectively raised over $130 million in venture capital, will be inducted at the Bretton Woods Symposium later this year. They join a prestigious Alliance, a dream-team of innovators who are now more than 300-strong, to work together to unlock potential across the continent.
From education and health, sports and culture to business and finance, the 14th class of Harambeans reflect the determination and enthusiasm of African entrepreneurs to overcome the impact of poverty and create different futures for the continent’s growing population of young people. Innovators such as Stacey Brewer from SPARK Schools and Matthew Henshall from Code4Kids focus on solutions, respectively, to bring quality education to underserved communities and bridge South Africa’s digital divide by enabling teachers and schools to implement a world-leading IT curriculum.
Africa’s resourcefulness in the face of health crises is well-known and has been put to the test again by COVID-19. Accessibility to healthcare information, services and technologies is critical to improving lives. The 14th class of Harambeans include new innovations in the healthcare sector including ReCoMed’s platform, founded by innovator Sheraan Amod, for access to healthcare appointments and tele-health services, as well as the focus of Impulse founder, Giancarlo Buekes on bringing affordable life-saving healthcare technologies to market.
When it comes to financial services innovations, African entrepreneurs have been notable trailblazers disrupting traditional, exclusionary models in ways that have rippled across the world. This year, Tope Alabi of Afriex and Simon Ellis of SmartWage join the Alliance, bringing their ideas, skills and connections into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that celebrates pathfinders creating better ways for all people to access and move money.
Building robustness in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem
The capabilities to scale-up and deliver long-term sustainable economic and social impact, are hurdles to entrepreneurs all over the world. The focus for today’s African innovators and business drivers is not just on their own ventures, but also on their entrepreneurial environment. A robust entrepreneurial ecosystem provides flowing essential services in the form of access to finances and markets, coaching and mentoring, connections and opportunities. It’s not surprising that the 14th class of Harambeans includes ventures boosting services to entrepreneurs such as Katlego Maphai of YOCO, who leads a financial technology company building tools and offering services to help small businesses get paid, run their businesses better and grow.
Access to support when you need it, especially to navigate sudden challenges such as the COVID economic downturn is a vital aspect of responsive entrepreneurial ecosystem services. Over the past months, through its Prosperity Fund, the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance has invested funding into current Alliance members such as Ugwem Eneyo from SHYFT Power Solutions, Velani Mboweni from LULA and Dr William Mapham from Vula Mobile.
The 14th class of Harambeans have now embarked on a new leg of their entrepreneurial journey. The innovators join a vibrant, collaborative Alliance. This month fintech scale-up Flutterwave, co-founded by two Harambeans – Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, class of 2010, and Olugbenga Agboola class of 2020 – was tagged as a ‘unicorn’ company and has been valued at more than $1 billion.
Okendo Lewis-Gayle, Founder and Chairman of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance says: “The 14th class is a testament to the growing confidence and maturity of Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now with Flutterwave’s unicorn status, it is safe to say that the Roaring Twenties for African innovators have officially begun.”