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Looking to enter school or university business competitions? Try these

By Daniel Mpala

For some experts, like ThreeArrows Impact Partner founder and partner Sawa Nakagawa, pitching competitions are a good way to gain experience presenting to investors.

And as Rekindle Learning founder and chair Rapelang Rabana pointed out in an earlier article, competitions can be useful when it comes to building relationships and getting exposure.

Entrepreneurship competitions can also help young entrepreneurs with capital, validation and in some instances help publicise their business (see this story).

But more than anything, these initiatives give young entrepreneurs access to mentors and access to networks that can help them grow their businesses.

Although this is not a definitive list, here are a few competitions aimed at high school and university students that young entrepreneurs should consider entering.

South Africa

EDHE National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity: This competition is an initiative of Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training and Universities South Africa (Usaf). It identifies, recognises and supports student entrepreneurship at public universities in South Africa. In addition to showcasing these businesses the competition also aims to attract investment into participating ventures.

YouthStartCT Entrepreneurial ChallengeThe YouthStartCT Challenge aims to contribute to skills development and innovation, as well as encourage entrepreneurship in Cape Town. Through the competition, the City of Cape Town provides training and development opportunities for startups. The overall winner will get a chance to partner with the city on projects that benefit job-seekers and provide long-term employment opportunities. This year’s edition offered the top 100 entrants training and mentorship workshops. Other prizes on offer this year included customised business support and development for the top 10 winners as well as cellphones, tablets and data.

Teen EntrepreneurTeen Entrepreneur runs an annual high school entrepreneurship competition. However, to apply for it young entrepreneurs have to be part of a high school entrepreneurship society. A list of registered societies can be found here. This year’s grand finale pitching event was scheduled to take place on 19 October in Cape Town.

Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge This is arguably one of the biggest competitions in South Africa aimed at aspiring high school entrepreneurs. Open to Grade eight to 12 learners, the challenge takes the form of an annual five-week competition in which learners undergo transformation and entrepreneurial development through exposure to byte-sized chunks of enriched, digitised skills-based learning content in entrepreneurship. This year’s edition, which started last month, will award R600 000 worth of prizes.


Egypt IoT Challenge: Held annually since 2016, the Egypt IoT Challenge is a capacity building and pre-incubation programme for high school and university students as well as startups that have innovative ideas in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT).


Sage Ghana: Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship in Ghana (Sage Ghana) provides students with the opportunity to compete for up to $10 000 in cash prizes, investment and resources. Sage Ghana also provides training, resources, connections and mentorship. Entries are open to teenagers in high school or in a community-based group.


Allan Gray Entrepreneurship ChallengeThis is one of the biggest competitions in Kenya aimed at aspiring high-school entrepreneurs. Open to Form 1 to Form 4 learners, the challenge gamifies learning about entrepreneurship. Next year’s edition will award over 1-million Kenyan Shillings (almost $10 000) worth in prizes.


Open Startup TunisiaOpen Start Up Tunisia is an annual national entrepreneurial competition and pre-incubation programme run in collaboration with Columbia Engineering, Columbia Business School and Columbia Global Centres. This competition brings together teams of high potential students from multidisciplinary and multi-regional Tunisian public and private institutions. It aims to develop ideas for innovative startups in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The winning team gets a chance to discover Columbia University and pitch at the Columbia Entrepreneurship festival.


Ruforum Young Innovators Competition: This competition is aimed at entrepreneurs from universities in the following West African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. The competition aims to encourage entrepreneurship through the promotion of business innovation and provision of seed funding to young entrepreneurs with creative and innovative business ideas. Applications for this year’s edition close on 20 October.

Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA): The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards are open to university students with a company that has been operating for at least six months with at least $500 in revenue. Prizes are generally a combination of cash and business services and will vary by location. At the global finals, students compete for a prize package of $25 000 in cash and a total value of over $40 000, which includes a travel or lodging expense paid trip to compete in the global finals. Those placed second will receive $10 000 and those placed third will receive $5000. Additional awards are given at the Global Finals for Social Impact, Innovation, and Lessons from the Edge. Applications are still open in KenyaNigeriaSouth AfricaTanzania and Zambia.

JA Company of the Year CompetitionAimed at high-school youth between the ages of 15 and 19, this three-day competition brings together student teams from across Africa to compete for a cash and prizes in a contest of business skills, ingenuity and innovation. To be eligible for the competition, students must have been active in the local Junior Achievement Company Programme during the school year or the year before. The competition features four stages, namely company reports, stage pitches, trade booths and boardrooms.

Hultz Prize ChallengeEach year, the Hult Prize team issues a challenge aligned with a large market opportunity inspiring university students from over 120 countries to solve it’s greatest problem. The Hult Prize methodology focuses on launching disruptive social enterprises that are impact-centred, profit-minded, and market-driven. Over 4o teams from around the world are selected to go through a curriculum that will transform their ideas into startups for a chance to win $1-million. The 2020 challenge is currently under way.

School Enterprise ChallengeThe School Enterprise Challenge is an international business programme for schools run by the educational charity Teach A Man To Fish. Registrations for this year’s edition close on 31 October.

Diamond ChallengeThe Diamond Challenge is one of the largest global entrepreneurship concept competitions for high school students around the world. Participants learn to conceive and test new ideas for business and social enterprises, and earn a chance to access $100 000 in awards. On the continent, participating countries include KenyaLiberia, Nigeria ( Abeokuta and Kaduna), Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Submissions will close on 8 January 2020.

Anzisha Prize: The Anzisha Prize seeks to award young entrepreneurs who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to social challenges or started successful businesses within their communities. The grand prize winners, selected from these finalists, will share prizes worth $100,000 USD. Entrepreneurs must be between the ages of 15 – 22. Applications open in February 2020.

Featured image: Winners from a recent Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs (Facebook)

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