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Insights from Africa's Business Heroes 2021 first place winner Khadija Elbedweihy

The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize is an annual competition for African entrepreneurs which offers funding, training, mentorship and support.
26.10.23 | Source: Ahram Online

The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize is an annual competition for African entrepreneurs which offers grant funding, training programs, mentorship, and ecosystem support. Every year, it cumulates in a grand finale that sees the top 10 finalists pitching their businesses to a panel of esteemed judges to win a share of a $1.5 million grant. This year’s annual Summit and Grand Finale and 5th anniversary celebration is scheduled to take place on 23-24 November in Kigali, Rwanda. You can sign up to attend the event in person or virtually here

When Jack Ma visited Africa in 2017, one thing that stood out to him was the ingenious and inventive spirit of the entrepreneurs on the continent. Now in its fifth year out of its 10-year commitment, the Africa’s Business Heroes competition has spent years identifying the cream of the crop in the African business ecosystem, helping them refine their ideas, and giving them a global stage to reach a bigger audience and amplify their impact.

ABH finalists utilize grants to grow teams and invest in technology, expanding their reach globally. Notable winners like Temie Giwa-Tubuson of LifeBank and Moulaye Taboure of Afrikrea have excelled post-competition. The ABH competition fosters learning and growth, benefiting all participants. Previous winners have made significant contributions to their communities.

2019 third-place winner, Christelle Kwizera, used her prize to enhance Water Access Rwanda, providing more clean water. Khadija Elbedweihy, 2021 winner, emphasizes the competition's value as a learning experience. Her startup, PraxiLabs, offers virtual science labs to schools. Khadija’s journey from not being able to make it to the top 50 in 2019 when she first applied to winning in 2021 exemplifies the competition's transformative impact.

Question: How did your journey into entrepreneurship unfold?

Khadija: My story of entrepreneurship comes together with the story of PraxiLabs. So, I got my bachelor’s degree at Cairo University in Egypt and I was top of my class four years in a row. I wanted to continue my education because my family are all into education; some of them are professors at universities, for example, and my dad also told me that education was the solution. Whenever my family was sitting together at a family reunion, I always heard them talking about how any currently advanced country changed itself and its future through educating its youth. I was raised this way and this fuelled my passion for teaching. That’s why after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I started to think I needed to do my PhD because the next step would be to come back and teach students in university.

So I travelled to the UK to do my PhD there and, unfortunately, even though I was at the top where I was coming from, in the midst of other PhD students in the UK, I was at the bottom. It was not because I wasn’t capable or competent, but I realised that it was due to a complete lack of resources. When you compare what we have here in Egypt, to that of people coming from the UK, the US and other advanced countries, the difference in the resources we get is unfair.

So I worked on myself, and after four years, I was able to be in the same place as they were. But the thing is, it was very shocking for me that because of this lack of resources, huge talents in Africa wouldn’t be able to achieve their dreams or what they really want to accomplish. That was the time it hit me and I decided that I was going back to my home country and working on something related to education, so I could change this kind of unfairness and give the same opportunities that others have to underprivileged students in Africa. This is exactly related to how I got into entrepreneurship and also why I decided to start PraxiLabs.