MIT, Mastercard seek out African entrepreneurs

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The Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has partnered the Mastercard Foundation to hold a series of events to discover and support African entrepreneurs bringing their knowledge to bear on their continent’s greatest challenges.

The initiative – Open Mic Africa – aims to find and showcase Africa’s top innovators while developing a dialogue among local entrepreneurs, investors, and MIT. Events will take place in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 26-27, Dakar, Senegal, on September 23-24, and Cape Town, South Africa, on September 27-28.

Each city’s agenda will include talks from African entrepreneurs who have successfully taken their ventures to scale, workshops on understanding customers and venture pitch training, mentoring sessions, and an “open pitch” competition where participants could win up to US$2,500.

The MIT Legatum Centre will also visit Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya during the tour to meet with local stakeholders and to foster the relationships with its alumni community.

“Africa represents the fastest growing region for entrepreneurship in the world,” said Georgina Campbell Flatter, the MIT Legatum Centre executive director and lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“Open Mic Africa is designed to unearth, inspire and celebrate the next generation of global technology ventures that are powering this movement. The Legatum Centre community is looking forward to working with all the entrepreneurs we encounter during our summer tour.”

The initiative is the first phase of the 2017 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion, which will officially open in August. Established in 2015 by the MIT Legatum Centre and the Mastercard Foundation, the prize aims to discover and support Africa’s most promising and innovative early-stage start-ups that help advance financial inclusion. It awards US$100,000 to one promising early-stage startup solving a major financial inclusion challenge.

“We are supporting MIT’s Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship because it is a world leader in finding and nurturing early-stage entrepreneurs with smart ideas to improve the lives of poor people in developing countries,” said Youssouf Sy, associate programme manager for financial inclusion at the Mastercard Foundation. “The Open Mic Africa programme, followed by the Zambezi Prize itself, aligns perfectly with our own mission: to enable everyone to have the opportunity to learn and prosper.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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