The Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School will be hosting the Africa Business Conference New Venture Competition on February 17, 2017 in Boston, MA. Applications open online on November 8th and close December 1st, 2016.

 The 19th Africa Business Conference will be held in Boston, MA from February 17th to February 18th, 2017 under the theme “Partnering for Prosperity: Working Together to Build a Strong and Inclusive Africa". As part of the conference, the New Venture Competition will showcase the diversity of entrepreneurs making a difference on the continent today. 

From the pool of applications, 10 finalists will be invited to pitch their business in front of approximately 700 attendees and receive feedback from a panel of experienced judges. The competition winner and runner-up will be awarded cash prizes of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

 The finalists will have the opportunity to participate in the Startup Lab, a workshop for early-stage entrepreneurs to solicit advice from conference participants. Conference participants and Harvard Business School faculty and students with experience in strategy, operations, finance, and other relevant business fields will be recruited to engage with the entrepreneurs and help them ideate and solve their problems. 

20 ventures will also have the opportunity to showcase their companies in the Startup Fair networking and recruiting event and attend networking lunches with distinguished panelists. 

The application form will be open on the conference website from November 8th 2016 – Dec 1st 2016. All applications must be received by December 1st, at 5pm EST. 

To start your application, please click here

 Please feel free to contact us at for any questions or clarifications.



 The competition is open to all African entrepreneurs with businesses that resonate with the broader conference theme of innovation and disruption. Entrepreneurs who offer unique and homegrown solutions to local problems and who meet the following eligibility criteria are highly encouraged to apply:

·       Early Stage Startups (for profit or not-for-profit)

·       Africa-focused with a majority or all of its operations in Africa

·       Less than 50 employees

·       Less than 5 years of operations

·       Raised less $250,000 in funding to date



The Competition is about assessing the commercial merit and potential viability of each proposed new venture. The judges will evaluate its potential for economic success and the likelihood of achieving that success based upon the team's plan, experience, and the validation of key assumptions and a clear and convincing presentation of the following:

 ·       Product/Service (what it is; why distinctive)

·       Team (breadth/depth of skills; ability to execute)

·       Opportunity (market size/need, ability to penetrate, strong value proposition and business model)

·       Context (favorable regulatory/tax/political and industry context; competitive landscape/advantage)

·       Risk/Reward (ways to manage upside/downside)

·       Structured Experimentation (market validation of value proposition/growth hypothesis)

·       Financial (realistic assumptions underlying any financial projections)

·       Execution (defined milestones)


Naturally, the more concrete the plan-all else being equal-the better. Teams that have a proven technology, recruited partners, or even attracted "beta" customers may raise their chances of success. On the other hand, strong early stage ideas that have yet to be launched but have been thought through and tested will be well received and considered based on their potential and the team's ability to execute. The learning experience and process of defining a strong idea and business model, testing one's assumptions, and making a compelling pitch about the viability of a new venture will be invaluable for everyone, no matter what the outcome.



Ginjan Bros is a NYC based company that develops and brings to market traditional African beverages. The company’s first offering is Ginjan, a wildly popular ginger based West African drink that is made with: Fresh ginger, cold-pressed pineapples, fresh-squeezed lemons, vanilla, anise, and organic cane sugar. The ultimate goal of the Ginjan Bros is to elevate traditional African food and beverage products to the ranks of well respected, world renown brands






Dechets a l’Or (DalO) or “Garbage to Gold” is a tech enabled social venture that collects and processes solid waste in secondary cities of West Africa to produce sustainable goods – organic fertilizer, recyclable materials, and renewable energy – to improve public health, increase earning potential for local farmers, create local jobs, and change the way people view their waste.  We believe that by deploying a holistic solution to the problem of waste we can create cleaner cities with brighter futures.


kweliTV is an on-demand and live streaming video network dedicated to the issues, stories and culture of the global black community. We curate the best indie films, documentaries, web shows and news programming of the entire African diaspora. Our platform allows people across the globe to watch high-quality black content and provides award-winning filmmakers of color a space to promote and make money off of their work. KWELI means “TRUTH” IN SWAHILI.


FACTOR® provides tailored credit scores unique to individual transactions. It stands for Fair Assessment of Creditworthiness Trust & Overall Reliability. It is built to quantify risk specific to a single transaction as opposed to a general weight. It combines comprehensive, non-traditional data sets and advanced machine learning to provide highly customized, accurate and inclusive credit score that anyone can use prove financial identity and creditworthiness. It is built for sub-Saharan Africa, banked or unbanked, and comes with a full report you can use to manage your credit history.


YNG Africa is an online platform that solves a critical pain point in the African market: finding quality local talent in a quick and efficient manner for employers, especially SMEs, who need it to grow and scale. Finding good talent is an especially acute problem in a continent mired by brain drain, high graduate unemployment, and employer cynicism. Combining technology with a unique tiered partnership strategy of local recruiters, post-graduate training camps and organizations, and student leaders at universities, we have found a winning resolve to find quality talent while incentivizing and promoting further skill training in the pipeline.


Mobilized Construction enables low cost dirt road monitoring, maintenance, and construction through our software platform. Someone gathers road conditions data by measuring road topography to map rural roads and create road repair contracts. Local individuals can then repair roads using labor-based maintenance and construction rather than using expensive heavy machinery. After road work is certified complete, individuals receive payment via mobile money like M-Pesa. Localizing repairs through labor ensures roads are safe and accessible using just a shovel and a cellphone.

ScholarX is a social impacttech startup that has developed a mobile and web platform that helps African youths access quality education anywhere in the world through scholarships and other opportunities.


1task1job is a social initiative that connects qualified and competent youth to businesses and entrepreneurs globally. The platform has been designed by a competitive team to provide an exchange of services on specific projects and ad hoc tasks. The latest technology is employed to provide a user-friendly platform and secure transactions on the internet. Recognized by Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, this platform has crossed many borders to avail projects within the United States, Egypt, Morocco & Cameroon.


AgroCenta is an agtech platform that provides end-to-end solutions in the post harvest value chain for smallholder farmers. AgroCenta's innovative suite of service includes an online sales platform that connects smallholder farmers directly to a market to trade fairly, eliminating exploitative or middle men from the value chain; an on-demand truck & logistic services (uber for trucks) where farmers can request for truck services just by a click of a button and finally access extension advisory services, weather information, market prices all through the power of mobile phones.


ICE Commercial Power ICE Commercial Power designs and develops solar microgrids for commercial customers throughout the secondary and tertiary markets in Nigeria. We leverage the latest technologies for the capture, storage, monitoring, controls, and secure sale of solar energy. The vision of the company is the large-scale implementation of solar energy as a safe and reliable source of renewable energy in Nigeria. We aim to empower small business owners by cutting operation costs for electricity and improving production.



Samuel Z. Alemayehu is Head of Africa & Managing Director at the Addis Ababa Office of Cambridge Industries Ltd. Mr. Samuel Alemayehu started his career in Silicon Valley as a serial entrepreneur. He is the founder of three successful tech ventures based in California. He began his professional career as an Associate at Venrock Associates, where he focused on consumer media services around the world.  He then moved to Africa in 2009, founding and investing in numerous companies across the continent and in a range of industries. Most recently he co-founded Cambridge Industries Ltd, to accelerate the implementation of pioneering infrastructure projects. Currently he is overseeing the construction of the first municipal waste-to-energy facility in Africa, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as well as the development of renewable energy projects in Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Somaliland and Djibouti. Samuel is an active angel investor globally and sits on the board of numerous companies. He is an expert on technology investments and the development of renewable energy projects in Africa with an emphasis in waste-to-energy, biomass and wind. He is a graduate of Stanford University School of Engineering. 



Ed Brakeman joined Bain Capital in 1988 with an initial focus on private equity investments and became co-founder and co-head of Bain Capital’s public equity investment business, Brookside Capital.  He retired from his full-time responsibilities as a Managing Director in 2005.  Today, he continues to participate in several firm initiatives on a part-time basis.  Prior to joining Bain Capital, he worked at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette in merchant banking.  Mr. Brakeman is actively engaged with a number of philanthropic initiatives.  He serves as board member or advisor for several organizations in Africa including the African Leadership Academy and Kliptown Youth Program.  Mr. Brakeman serves on the Advisory Councils of Social Finance, the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard.  Mr. Brakeman supports the public university mission of the University of California at Berkeley through involvement in various alumni initiatives.  He received an MBA from Stanford University and a BS from the University of California at Berkeley



Stéphane Le Bouder is a Managing Director at AFIG Funds, a leading African fund management firm with USD 239 million asset under management. Mr. Le Bouder is responsible for sourcing and executing transactions and is a member of the Investment Committee.

Prior to joining AFIG Funds, Stéphane served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the US Treasury Department Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington DC. A political appointee, he worked with senior Treasury and White House officials to advance the Obama Administration’s international financial and development agenda in Congress. Prior to that, he worked for the US Congress as Staff Director for the House Financial Services Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade. As senior committee staff, under the leadership of Chairman Barney Frank (Massachusetts), Stephane helped draft the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Under the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman Gregory Meeks (New York), he was responsible for congressional oversight of US engagement with multilateral institutions.
Stephane holds a BA and MA in Economics from McGill University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He holds both French and American citizenships.

Chukwuka Monye is an innovation strategist, corporate development and consumer intelligence expert. His experience covers various functions in several industries including financial services, telecoms, agriculture, solid minerals, media & entertainment, retail and the public sector. He is adept in formulating corporate and marketing strategies as well as providing solutions using technology and innovation. He is the Founding and Managing Partner of Ciuci (pronounced seeu-see) Consulting a strategy and consumer intelligence company with strong technical expertise in strategy formulation, research and human capital development. His passion for positive change within the continent, also led him to establish iQube- an organization designed to engage the youth and  foster knowledge sharing, collaboration and out of the box thinking. It is founded on 3Is – Innovation, Inspiration and Insight.  He is currently the Director General of Delta Economic Summit Group, a private sector led think tank focused on influencing and delivering positive and strategic change most especially economic development in Delta State. Chukwuka has a MBA and a PGD in Strategy and Innovation, both from University of Oxford. He has a BA in Business Administration from Warner University, Florida where he graduated with Honors.



The Startup Fair is a recruiting, marketing, and networking opportunity for the top 20 businesses that applied for the New Venture Competition. Selected start-ups will be given a booth to showcase their business in Batten Hall, adjacent to the broader career fair at the Africa Business Conference.


Startup Lab is a workshop for the New Venture Competition entrepreneurs to solicit advice from conference participants. Conference participants and Harvard Business School faculty and students with experience in strategy, operations, finance, and other relevant business fields will be recruited to engage with the entrepreneurs and help them use design thinking and ideation to develop solutions to their most relevant business challenges. 


This year, Professor Srikant Datar , the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration, HBS One Harvard Faculty Fellow and Senior Associate Dean for University Affairs will be leading the workshop. Srikant M. Datar is the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration, Faculty Chair of the Harvard Innovation Lab, HB Harvard Faculty Fellow, and Senior Associate Dean for University Affairs at Harvard Business School. A graduate with distinction from the University of Bombay, he received gold medals upon graduation from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India. A Chartered Accountant, he holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Cited by his students as a dedicated and innovative teacher, Datar received the George Leland Bach Award for Excellence in the Classroom at Carnegie Mellon University and the Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford University. He teaches MBA and executive education classes in design thinking, innovation, big data, and strategy implementation. He is a co-author of the leading cost accounting textbook, Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis published by Prentice-Hall, and of Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads published by Harvard Business Press.

Datar's research interests are in the cost management and management control areas. He has published his research on activity-based management, quality, productivity, time-based competition, new product development, bottleneck management, incentives and performance evaluation in several prestigious journals, including The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Accounting Research, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Management Science. He has served on the editorial board of several journals and presented his research to corporate executives and academic audiences in North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Datar serves on the Board of Directors of ICF International, Novartis AG, Stryker Corporation, and T-Mobile US, and has worked with many corporations on consulting and field-based projects. He is a member of the American Accounting Association and the Institute of Management Accountants.


Grand Prize Winner: Crossfrontier International

Crossfrontier is a family owned agriculture start-up. The company utilizes biotechnology to improve food security by increasing yields on banana plantations. The company leverages a technology to provide virus indexing services and quality affordable virus free tissue culture planting material in order to improve food security in the East and Central African region.

People’s Choice Winner: dotLEarn

dotLearn brings MOOCs to Africa using algorithms that package full courses into tiny 5MB packets which students can load offline on any cellphone. We want to make online education work for emerging markets. We believe that with better technology, and a better business model, we can spur the development of more, better, localized educational content that reaches more than 100 million students around the world.