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Rwandan Entrepreneur Shortlisted For Jack Ma’s US$1.5M Prizes




Yvette Ishimwe, Founder and CEO of IRIBA Water Group ( (Rwanda), is one of the finalists for the 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) ( prize, a flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation.

Tyhe foundation has announced this year’s top 10 finalists who will also take the stage at the grand finale in November for their final pitch to win a share of a US$1.5 million prize pool.

The ten entrepreneurs – half of whom are female – were selected from over 12,000 applications across all 54 African nations and passed multiple stages of judging and evaluation. With an average age of 32 years, the top ten represent businesses primarily operating in 7 African countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Their businesses span key industries such as agriculture, beauty, education, energy, food & beverage, logistics, manufacturing, media & entertainment, and retail. 80% of the finalists operate their businesses in rural areas. Through their ventures, these outstanding entrepreneurs are generating positive impact and creating opportunities for their communities.

“It’s African time! We have been continuously impressed with all of our 2021 Top 10 finalists, especially their diversity and strength of their businesses. The Top 10 are truly inspiring and are a testament to the talent, resilience, innovation, and passion of African entrepreneurs. In the midst of unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we remain steadfast in our efforts to identify, support and shine a spotlight on African entrepreneurs that are driving positive growth for their communities,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International, Jack Ma Foundation.

“This is my 3rd year as a semi-final judge and therefore, I have seen a total of 60 entrepreneurs pitch. In my opinion they are all already heroes just by reaching this stage. Every year the competition gets tougher for the entrepreneurs but it also makes it harder for us judges to choose our top 10. I wish the Top 10 of 2021 well on the next phase of the competition and congratulations to our Heroes,” commented Rene Parker, Director at R Labs and a semi-finale judge of ABH.

“It was an absolute pleasure to judge the ABH semi-finals again this year. The quality of the semi-finalists continues to be high. It was extremely difficult to shortlist the final 10 because each entrepreneur was so inspiring. They demonstrated the resilience, passion, imagination and traction that we need in our entrepreneurs here in Africa. I can’t wait to follow their success!” added Fred Swaniker, Founder of ALU and a semi-finale judge of ABH.

In November, Africa’s Business Heroes will host its Grand Finale in a virtual format, and the top winners of the 2021 ABH prize will be announced in due course. The next few weeks will see the finalists finesse their pitches and leverage the in-depth training, learnings and insights that they have gathered during their ABH journey. Meet the 2021 Top 10 finalists here:

Ghirmay Abraham, Founder, Aptech Africa ( (Uganda)

Ghirmay was born in Eritrea and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Asmara before starting work in the renewable energy sector. He started Aptech Africa with only a $20,000 investment. Working to bring electricity and water to people across Africa, Aptech has grown to be a multinational business operating in seven African countries.

Navalayo Osembo-Ombati, Co-Founder and CEO, Enda Athletic ( (Kenya)

Navalayo is from a town in Kenya that has produced generations of the world’s greatest distance runners. To maximize social impact in Kenya through sports, Navalayo founded Enda Athletic, a made-in-Kenya running shoe brand that creates jobs, invests in local communities, and spurs economic development through exports. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics.

Oghenetega Iortim, Founder, Gricd ( (Nigeria)

Oghenetega is an Information Communications Engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from Covenant University. Oghenetega has been dedicated to solving health and food accessibility challenges through technology. Through his startup, Gricd, he is building cold-chain facilities to address storage pitfalls in the agricultural and healthcare sectors.

Yvette Ishimwe, Founder and CEO, IRIBA Water Group ( (Rwanda)

IRIBA Water Group is a social enterprise that offers innovative drinking water solutions. Its founder Yvette holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southern New Hampshire University. She is a YALI Mandela Washington Fellow and has been awarded by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the impact IRIBA has brought to the community.

Charlot Magayi, Founder and CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves ( (Kenya)

When Charlot’s two-year-old daughter suffered a severe burn caused by a traditional stove, Charlot was moved to provide safer cooking technologies. She founded Mukuru to help keep children safe, as well as reduce fuel consumption and household air pollution. Charlot is an Echoing Green Fellow and has been recognized by Global Citizen, World Bank and AWIEF.

Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy, Founder, PraxiLabs ( (Egypt)

Khadija received her PhD from the University of Sheffield studying human-computer interaction and user experience. With her belief in adopting technology for improving education and enabling equal opportunities, Khadija founded and is currently managing PraxiLabs, which makes virtual science labs accessible for educational institutions and schools.

Chidi Nwaogu, Co-founder and CEO, Publiseer ( (Nigeria)

Chidi Nwaogu is a tech entrepreneur and software developer. He is the CEO of Publiseer, a digital content distribution company that helps independent and underserved African creatives earn a living. He is the winner of the 2020 Migration Entrepreneurship Prize from the Swiss Government, and is also an Acumen Fellow, Alibaba eFounders Fellow, Westerwelle Fellow, and French-African Young Leader.

Ikenna Nzewi, Co-founder and CEO, Releaf Marketplace Nigeria ( (Nigeria)

Ikenna graduated from Yale University in 2017 with a Bachelors in Computer Science and co-founded Releaf while he was still at university. Releaf is an agriculture technology company that develops hardware and software solutions to drive industrialisation of food processing in Africa.

Violet Amoabeng, Founder and CEO, Skin Gourmet ( (Ghana)

Violet attained both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Business Administration – specializing in marketing, supply chain management and accounting. In 2014, Violet created Skin Gourmet with GHS 145 (US $ 45.00). Skin Gourmet is now distributed in over 17 different countries and Violet has been featured in Glitz and EMY Magazine as an emerging industry leader.

Ketsheaphone Jacob, Founder and CEO, The Bulb World ( (Botswana)

Ketsheaphone is the Founder and CEO of The Bulb World, an LED light manufacturing company. Ketshephaone is passionate about helping youth startups and also giving back to communities through The Bulb World’s CSR Initiative which sets out to light up public boarding schools to give learners a brighter learning environment.

For more information on the 2021 Top 10, please visit the ABH official website. Follow ABH on Twitter (, LinkedIn (, Instagram ( or Facebook ( to join these dynamic and inspiring entrepreneurs as they approach the Grand Finale.

To watch the final pitches of the Top 10 from 2020, tune into YouTube where a four-episode series ( on the journey of the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes competition is now available.

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German Firm Signs Deal With Rwanda, Senegal To Begin Vaccines Manufacturing Mid 2022



BioNTech SE announced on Tuesday plans to construct a manufacturing plant for mRNA-based vaccines in Africa in mid-2022.

This is the next step in BioNTech’s efforts to implement sustainable end-to-end vaccine supply solutions on the continent.

The decision is the result of a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Daniel M. Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech and Sierk Poetting, COO of BioNTech as well as Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre and Dr Amadou Alpha Sall, Directeur-General of Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Kigali, Rwanda.

The meeting occurred upon the invitation of the kENUP Foundation and took place as a side-event of the Second Ministerial Meeting of the African Union and the European Union and resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

This comes after the parties signed a Joint Communiqué at a previous meeting in Berlin on August 27, 2021.

“I would like to thank all participants of today’s meeting for the support and trust to establish the first mRNA manufacturing facility within the African Union. Together, we will work on developing a regional manufacturing network to support the access to vaccines manufactured in Africa, for Africa,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech.

“Our goal is to develop vaccines in the African Union and to establish sustainable vaccine production capabilities to jointly improve medical care in Africa. We have made great progress in the past few weeks, which will help us on our way to turn these plans into reality,” he said.

Sierk Poetting, COO of BioNTech added: “We aim to accelerate the building of a GMP-certified manufacturing facility and plan to begin the construction on site in mid-2022.”

The MoU underlines that time is a critical success factor in the development of sustainable vaccine production for the African Union.

“We have finalized the planning and initial assets for the new facility have already been ordered,” Poetting added.

The parties have agreed to jointly to start works immediately.

BioNTech has finalized the construction plans and ordered the assets, which will be delivered by mid-2022.

The new manufacturing facility could become the first node in a decentralized and robust African end-to-end manufacturing network enabling an annual manufacturing capacity of several hundreds of million mRNA vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to develop and implement a scalable construction network based on the expertise and learnings from the ramp-up of the Company’s production facility in Marburg.

To enable an expedient set-up of production capacities according to GMP standards, BioNTech will start with the construction and validation of a first production line enabling the manufacturing of drug product for about 50 million of e.g. COVID-19 vaccine doses per year, once fully operational.

The capacity will be increased sequentially by adding further manufacturing lines and sites to the manufacturing network on the continent, supporting the production of several hundreds of millions of mRNA vaccine doses.

BioNTech will initially staff, own and operate the facility to support the safe and rapid initiation of the production of mRNA-based vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to transfer manufacturing capacities and the know-how to local partners.

BioNTech, Rwanda Development Board and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal agreed to swiftly build-up the required human resources capacity and systems so that the partners can take over ownership and operational duties.

In parallel, the Republic of Rwanda and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar have committed themselves to scale-up fill and finish capacities to complete the local end-to-end manufacturing process.

In addition, BioNTech is in discussions about an expansion of the current partnership with Cape Town-based vaccine manufacturer Biovac, which is part of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing network.

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Africa’s Second Plant Breeding Conference Kicks Off In Rwanda



From 25th-29th October 2021, scientists, entrepreneurs, institutional leaders and students from Africa and beyond are meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and online for the second continental African Plant Breeders Association Conference (#APBAConf2021)  

Guided by the theme, “Accelerating Genetic Gains in Plant Breeding for Resilience and Transformative Food Systems and Economic Growth in Africa”, participants at the hybrid event are set to explore current research outputs and outcomes in plant-breeding and related disciplines. 

AGRA is partnering with the Government of Rwanda, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), host of the Secretariat of the APBA and USAID at the #APBAConf2021, a forum that seeks to shine the spotlight on plant breeding as a key component of fast-tracking the continent’s agricultural transformation.

Strategic partnerships are crucial in the fight against food and nutrition security in Africa, said Prof. Danquah, Founding Director of WACCI and President of APBA. 

“The #APBAConf2021 draws attention to the need for crop improvement and seed sector development in Africa to help us build resilience in the staple crops of Africa, and to increase productivity in farmers’ fields. AGRA is proud to have been part of training plant breeders who are now churning out locally adopted crop varieties. I encourage all of us to support these scientists and sustain the momentum to put high yielding as well as drought tolerant crops in the hands of farmers.   I am pleased to be part of this conference which brings together scientists from across the continent to help provide solutions that ultimately improve the lives of smallholder farmers,” Dr. Kalibata said. 

Since 2007, AGRA has supported 1,100 African scientists to obtain post-graduate degrees whilst developing solutions to address the challenges of smallholder farmers with respect to seeds, soils, applied agricultural economics and policy.

This is in line with the APBA platform which aims at driving an agenda for innovation in plant breeding on the continent to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and the aspirations of the African Union, “the Africa We Want” by 2063). 

The APBA conference was first held two years ago in Ghana, where resolutions were made to mobilize resources and build institutional capacities for the long-term strategic development of the agricultural sector in Africa through effective plant-breeding programs.  

The 2021 edition will track the progress towards the commitments made in Accra, in addition to presenting tangible solutions to other problems presenting in the in the plant breeding and seed industry as an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and other unforeseen difficulties like the locust invasion of East Africa.  

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Vivo Energy Launches Engen Service Station In Rusoro



When Vivo Energy Rwanda, the company that markets and distributes Engen-branded fuels and lubricants in Rwanda, acquired Energy Solution (ENES) and GEMECA petroleum assets in March this year, its executives promised to increase its network by 13 operational service stations and three new land banks within 12 months.

It also said that it would increase its retail network from 24 to 40 service station sites across the country.

As part of this growth agenda, Vivo Energy Rwanda launched a new service station located in Rusoro sector on Friday, October 22, 2021.

The service station is located in growing area connecting different potential zone dominated by commercial, residential and social activities.

It stands on the main road connecting Mulindi center to other mixed activities zones with fuel consumption opportunities from all kinds of vehicles starting from motorbike and light cars to heavy cars are expected.

Saibou Coulibaly, the Managing Director of Vivo Energy Rwanda, said that “we have been able to grow our footprint and serve a bigger customer base with quality product and services all over Rwanda”.

“Our focus has been and will always be to offer a unique and memorable experience to anyone who will interact with the Engen brand; we want to bring our customer promise “with us you are number one” to life,” he said.

He added that this is part of the broader strategy to bring more stations and more choice to customers with these newly added service stations.

The added station comes at a time when the firm is also running another campaign known as “Triple check campaign, the very first ever quality campaign in the petroleum industry.

The aim of this campaign, launched in May this year, is to ensure that every customer who visits any of the Engen service stations gets the right quality of fuel in their vehicle, the right quantity they have paid for, all this provided to them with the service level they deserve.

With the help of installed quality fuel testers, customers have the opportunity to see if they are getting the quality and quantity of fuel.

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