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A look at the achievements of Anzisha Prize finalists

The Anzisha Prize was set up by the African Leadership Academy and the MasterCard Foundation, as a way of celebrating the achievements of young people who have developed innovative, ethical and creative solutions to the challenges experienced by people in their local communities.

Each year, the award committee selects 12 finalists from across the continent; those who are familiar with the ALA, such as Tunde Folawiyo, may know that these people are treated to an all-expenses paid visit to the academy in South Africa, where they then get to participate in a conference, and attend an entrepreneurial workshop. The entrants who are selected as winners then share a pool of prizes worth in excess of $75,000.

The accomplishments of those named as finalists are quite astounding, particularly given the challenging circumstances in which many of them were raised. Take David Mwendele, for instance. His family were unable to afford to send him to school, and so he never received a formal education; instead, he accepted a job at a book factory.

Tunde FolawiyoDetermined to make the most out of a difficult situation, Mwendele decided to use his newly-acquired skills to teach others how to produce and sell books. He established a non-profit foundation called Let God Be You, which aims to provide teens with the training they need to set up their own photography, baking and book manufacturing enterprises.

The story of another young Anzisha finalist, Faisal Burhan, is equally impressive. During his time as a student, he was told that the school could no longer pay for the gas required to light the bunsen burners used in science lessons. Rather than accepting this, Burhan chose to design a bio-digester that was capable of turning organic waste into gas, which could then be used to fuel the burners. Soon after this, he set his mind to building a microscope for the school using only a handful of materials – plastic pipes, a light bulb, thread, cardboard, mirrors and lenses. He is now working on designing a jet pack that will operate on oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

These are just two examples of the incredible work that is being carried out by those who participate in the Anzisha Prize. Unfortunately, however, very few women have applied for this award so far; because of this, the ALA is currently focusing its efforts on encouraging more women to participate. It is also interested in seeing more applications from those whose enterprises address issues relating to hospitality, retail, agribusiness and renewable energy; businesspeople such as Tunde Folawiyo are no doubt aware that these are the areas that are of greatest importance to the development of the African economy.

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