Washington — Three winners were selected for the Apps4Africa 2012 Business Challenge contest, which awards cash prizes and mentoring to innovative African startup companies who develop sustainable technology-based solutions to youth unemployment.
The Apps4Africa competition awarded $10,000 each to three winners, selected from among nearly 300 applications from 27 countries by an international panel of judges, the U.S. Department of State announced February 20. The program was created by Appfrica International and the State Department and is sponsored by the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs in partnership with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.
One winner, Titus Mawano from Uganda, developed Ffene, a low-cost business management platform that will allow businesses to reduce the overhead costs of administrative tasks and free up resources for growth initiatives. The platform can be used for accounting, customer relationship management, product management and generation of reports.
Ghana's William Edem Senyo and Heather Cochran developed the crowdsourcing platform SliceBiz, which has created a framework to help middle-class investors in Africa easily put their money into high-growth startup companies with proven potential to give a high return on their investment.
"The solution SliceBiz is offering is to leverage Web/mobile (& offline) platforms to create a connection between startups looking for funding and business-savvy young professionals/middle class looking to invest," Apps4Africa said.
Francis Onwumere, Opeyemi Obembe, and Ernest Ojeh from Nigeria created a project management and business collaboration tool called Prowork that will help businesses create and assign tasks and track project status in real time through the Web, SMS and mobile technology.
The contest followed brainstorming sessions across Africa in which Apps4Africa, U.S. Embassy personnel and local partners focused on "engaging and encouraging the next young tech CEOs and teams of change makers that could innovate, create, and transform their technology businesses to provide more employment opportunities and strengthen the economy of their region," App4Africa said.
Started in 2009, Apps4Africa has provided a competitive funding program for African innovators, startups and businesses. Applications are judged "based on sustainability, scalability, [and] profitability, in addition to social impact," the website says.
The program targets successful startups and entrepreneurs in order to create enough jobs to maintain Africa's current trend of a growing middle class and to use technology to solve societal problems.
This year's Apps4Africa competition, coordinated by private sector partner Appfrica International, built on the success of two previous competitions -- Apps4Africa 2010: Civic Challenge and Apps4Africa 2011: Climate Challenge -- that also encouraged the development of mobile, Web and desktop applications to address local challenges in Africa. The 2012 competition was also supported by the State Department's Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership.
The closing ceremony for the competition will take place on March 6 in Kampala, Uganda. The winning teams will be awarded cash prizes and follow-on mentoring.
See the Apps4Africa website for more information.