Entries are now open for the prestigious Anzisha Prize, Africa’s foremost youth entrepreneurial awards which reward young African entrepreneurs who are making a difference by transforming both the continent and their communities.

With more than $75 000 USD in cash prizes, the Anzisha Prize – hosted by the African Leadership Academy in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation – celebrates initiative and innovation. It identifies exceptional young entrepreneurs who are leading by example and underscores their ability to significantly shape the future of Africa.

Now in its third year, past winners include Andrew Mupuya who started the first local registered paper bag and envelope-producing company in Uganda; Kenya’s Diana Mong’are who founded recycling company Planet Green and became an evangelist for environmental conservation in her community; Ghana’s Yaw Duffour-Awuah who at the age of 16 launched a micro-lending company which has now grown to a financial services company; Kenya’s Joe Mwale who created a water bottling company and Antoinette Furaha from the Democratic Republic of Congo who began a small micro-credit services company that invests in and empowers young refugee women in Uganda.

The word ‘Anzisha’ is taken from Swahili and translates into ‘initiative’ and is a project that is gaining significant momentum in African business circles as its impact is beginning to be felt.

Says Chi Achebe, Anzisha Prize programme manager: “There are thousands of entrepreneurial African youth that are making a difference in their communities. We want to hear their stories, celebrate their successes and invest in their potential. We are delighted to be rewarding young entrepreneurs who could very well be the African business leaders of the future.”

Her views are echoed by Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation: “The Anzisha finalists have developed extraordinary ideas on how to address issues such as unemployment, environmental sustainability, education and healthcare. Together, as young African entrepreneurs, they have impacted thousands of lives across the continent. We hope this ‘Anzisha effect’ continues in the months and years to come.”

The Anzisha Prize is open to entrepreneurs from around the African continent aged between 15 and 25. Applications are now open and close on April 1, 2013. Entry forms are available online, via mobile phone and in print. The organisers have also have created a new nominations process as well as video-based submissions through YouTube to allow travellers, teachers and organisations to help uncover young innovators they may know in their communities.

Information events are also scheduled for Africa’s major centres, starting with cities in East Africa in mid-February. Prospective applicants or those wishing to nominate a young entrepreneur should check the website or social media pages for dates and venues.

Applicants can complete the online application form on the Anzisha Prize website (www.anzishaprize.org), download and email the form to [email protected] or submit a five-minute video application on the Anzisha Prize YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/anzishaprize). In the coming weeks, discussions around the state and character of youth entrepreneurship in Africa will be hosted on the Anzisha Prize Facebook page – www.facebook.com/anzishaprize. You can also follow on Twitter (@anzishaprize)

Finalists will win an all-expense paid trip to the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, to attend a weeklong entrepreneurship conference and awards gala. While there, they will be taught by ALA’s renowned Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty as well as experienced business mentors. Winners will share $75,000 USD, courtesy of The MasterCard Foundation, and be given networking and learning opportunities to take their projects to the next level.

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