She is the founder of INFIUSS, an online blood bank and digital supply chain platform that ensures patients in 23 hospitals in Cameroon have life-saving blood when and where they need it. She is only the second woman to win the grand prize since Best Ayiorworth took it home in 2013.
Melissa was selected from among 20 finalists during a ceremony on 23 October
The first runner up, 18-year-old Alhaji Siraj Bah will receive US$15,000 in prize money. He is the founder of Rugsal Trading in Sierra Leone, a company that produces handcrafted paper bags as well as briquettes for cooking fuel. Alhaji hopes that the funds will boost the impact his business is already having and will enable him to hire more youth from his community. “I had only US$20 dollars when I started and I have created an impact already,” said Bah. With US$15,000, I am going to impact 7.5 million Sierra Leonians’ lives in less than five years. It will happen.”
Joan Nalubega, 21, was the second-runner up. She is the co-founder of Uganics, which produces mosquito-repellent soap to combat malaria in Uganda. With the US$12,500, she will conduct a certification study for the company’s products and prepare Uganics for export to neighboring countries which will help to widen her impact in the fight against malaria.
The keynote speaker, renowned entrepreneur Sim Shagaya spoke plainly about the challenges faced by the continent but was confident that young entrepreneurs are best placed to solve them. He concluded his inspiring remarks with a simple message to the finalists, “you must lead!”
The Anzisha Prize, the premier award for Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs, is a partnership between African Leadership Academy and the Mastercard Foundation.
The 20 finalists spent 10 days in a business accelerator camp strengthening their business fundamentals before presenting their ventures to a panel of judges. They join a pool of more than 85 Anzisha Fellows and a network of support that includes access to mentors, experts, and networking. Each returns home with a US$2,500.
Joan Nalubega’s story
Growing up in an orphanage, Joan often found herself falling ill with Malaria, a disease that remains all too pervasive in her country of Uganda.
Malaria is still a significant contributor to mortality there, accounting for almost 20% of hospital deaths in the country. After attending a social entrepreneurship training, Joan was inspired to create a venture that would tackle the disease that she had constantly battled with in her younger years.
Joan’s company, Uganics, aims to combat malaria by producing anti-malaria products: a long lasting mosquito repellent soap for children and families. The mosquito repellent effects of the soap lasts up to 6 hours following a bath, and clothes and linen washed with the soap have the same effect.
Cognizant of the fact that the poorest in Uganda often lack funds to buy similar products, Joan created a two tier pricing system for tourists and locals. She sells the same products to visiting tourists at a premium, and uses some of the revenue to provide discounts to underprivileged Ugandans most in need of the products.
She has so far partnered with 10 safari lodges who sell the product at more than a 100% profit to enable her to subsidize the product for those who need it most.
Uganics has so far carried out 4 malaria information campaigns and distributed 1000 free anti-repellent soaps to 120 families in rural districts of Uganda. Joan’s ultimate vision is to see a Uganda free from Malaria, starting with reducing malaria deaths in Uganda by 20% in the next 5 years.