Why business competitions are leveling the playing field for African entrepreneurs today than previous generations

A few weeks ago I was privileged to pitch at the Get In the Ring Competition (GITR) and it was one of the most thrilling experiences you could ever have. We stood in a boxing ring, side by side with our opponents, and battled our way through five rounds of business pitching.

The Get In the Ring (GITR) is a global business pitching competition where start-ups face each other in a boxing ring and compete for five rounds of 30 seconds each. Each round has a designated theme i.e. Team, Achievements, Business Model and Financials, with the contestants’ performance rated per round. Here is what such competitions offer entrepreneurs today from my experience at the 2018 GITR competition.


For a start, the competition was held at the Metta start-up hub in Nairobi, a hive of activity where exposure hits you in the face the moment you walk in, the place is filled with people of influence within the Kenyan and global start-up ecosystem. I even remember seeing Herve Kubwimana in the crowd, he is the Program Manager and Africa Lead for the Global Merck Accelerator, which runs an incubation program for start-ups all over the world.

Get in the Ring business pitching competition image from https://twitter.com/fuuzo_world

Competition participants, stood to win prizes including a one-year membership at Metta, where you would get to work from the start-up hub, attend all events and access their wide networks for a whole year. Considering that a large number of the participants were young-some students, imagine the impact it would have on them to spend a whole year in the company of experienced entrepreneurs. An opportunity that the older generation would die to have, back in their days.

Additionally, the winner of the competition would get to go represent Kenya in Portugal (all expenses paid) at the global GITR competition, where investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world would be interacting for days on end. Again, imagine the possible impact of that kind of exposure.

The second runners-up would get to go to 22 Sloan in South Africa, arguably Africa’s largest start-up campus, opened in 2017 by renowned entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson founder of the Virgin Group. They would get training and an opportunity to interact with a world-class entrepreneurship network in the campus.


If you have a keen ear you will notice that a lot of entrepreneurs and aspiring business people cite capital as a challenge to starting out in business. Well, business competitions lessen that problem with prize money often up for grab. Chivas Regal-an initiative of the 200-year old whisky brand by the same name, offers up to $ 1 million dollars in prize money that is distributed to the competition’s finalists.

Bank of Africa’s (BMCE) African Entrepreneurship Award also distributes the same amount to its finalists while the Africa Prize competition by the Royal Engineering Academy offers the winner sh3.4 million while the remaining finalists receiving slightly less amounts. Check out the Africa Prize Competition where Three Kenyans are geared up for sh3.4 million jackpot for entrepreneurs in engineering


GITR Kenya, run by Junior Achievement Kenya in partnership with NIC Bank has in past editions been giving cash awards to winners but have since moved to more experiential mentorship-based rewards. This is in order to allow the winning entrepreneurs to develop their ventures further.

Other notable competitions like the Africa Prize Competition, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, Hult Prize, and African Entrepreneurship Award (AEA), all provide mentorship opportunities by world-class mentors with years of experience under their belts. A situation that would be next to impossible were it not for such competitions.

On that note and in reference to the late Njenga Karume’s autobiography Beyond expectations: From charcoal to gold, where he narrates the inspiring tale of his rise from a charcoal seller to one of Kenya’s top business tycoons. What do you think entrepreneurs like Njenga Karume would have done if they had the same opportunities as today’s young and connected (thanks to the internet) generation?


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