African entrepreneurs pipped to top Unilever prize

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Four African entrepreneurs were amongst the runners-up as Unilever awarded the second Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur prize to American Daniel Yu.

The prize is the top accolade in the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, arranged in partnership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

Yu took the prize, with includes EUR50,000 (US$57,000) and the support of a tailored mentoring programme from CISL and Unilever experts, for Reliefwatch – software that assists medical clinics in the developing world in digitising and managing inventory records for better patient outcomes.

African entrepreneurs were prominent as runners-up, and will each receive a cash prize of EUR10,000 (US$11,300) in addition to mentoring and support.

They were David Opio, whose Ensibuuko mobile and web app integrates SMS and mobile money services to handle savings and make loans to smallholder farmers in Uganda, Alloysius Attah, whose Farmerline mobile communications tool provides agronomic advice and weather forecasts through local language voice messages in Ghana, Charles Batte, whose Tree Adoption Uganda helps young entrepreneurs set up businesses by providing mentoring and training funded by the sale of trees planted by the entrepreneurs themselves, and Mark Boots, whose VOTO Mobile is a voice-based mobile platform based in Ghana helping people feedback to the organisations who serve them.

A total of 816 entrepreneurs entered the awards from 88 countries, with the winner selected following an interview process and intensive accelerator programme to prepare finalists for the final pitch.

“I am delighted to see the increased interest our second year awards programme has received, and incredibly impressed by Daniel and the other inspiring young people with excellent initiatives that we are able to support,” Unilever chief executive officer (CEO) Paul Polman said.

“Government and business cannot tackle the world’s greatest sustainability challenges on their own. We need to empower individuals to take action – young men and women who embrace the need for change and who want to make a difference.”

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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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