MIT Launches Cross-Continent Tour in Search of Africa’s Most Innovative Entrepreneurs

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Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal Confirmed as Stops on MIT Legatum Center’s “Open Mic Africa”

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT

Africa represents the fastest growing region for entrepreneurship in the world. Open Mic Africa is designed to unearth, inspire and celebrate the next generation of global technology ventures that are powering this movement.

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Legatum Center), in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, today announced a series of events in three cities across Africa to discover and support local entrepreneurs who are bringing their knowledge to bear on their continent’s greatest challenges.

Open Mic Africa seeks to find and showcase Africa’s top innovators while developing a dialogue among local entrepreneurs, investors and MIT. Each city’s agenda will include: inspirational talks from African entrepreneurs who have successfully taken their ventures to scale; workshops on understanding customers and venture pitch training; mentoring sessions; and an “open pitch” competition where participants could win up to US$2,500. There will also be an “Ask Me Anything” Booth for those interested in learning about opportunities to apply to MIT programs. Attendees may pre-register and sign up for these events on this web page.

Open Mic Africa will take place in:

  • Lagos, Nigeria: July 26-27, 2017
  • Dakar, Senegal: September 23-24, 2017
  • Cape Town, South Africa: September 27-28, 2017

The MIT Legatum Center will also visit Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya during the tour to meet with local stakeholders and to foster the relationships with its alumni community.

“Africa represents the fastest growing region for entrepreneurship in the world,” said Georgina Campbell Flatter, the MIT Legatum Center Executive Director and lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Open Mic Africa is designed to unearth, inspire and celebrate the next generation of global technology ventures that are powering this movement. The MIT Legatum Center community is looking forward to working with all the entrepreneurs we encounter during our summer tour.”

Open Mic Africa is the first phase of the 2017 Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion which will officially open in August 2017. The Zambezi Prize was established in 2015 by the MIT Legatum Center in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation to discover and support Africa’s most promising and innovative early-stage start-ups that help advance financial inclusion. The Prize awards US$100,000 to Africa’s most promising early-stage start-up that is solving a major financial inclusion challenge in the most innovative way. Prize finalists are eligible to receive additional cash prizes and for a chance to attend MIT’s acclaimed Entrepreneurship Development Program, a one-week immersive executive program at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The 2017 Prize will also honor one African leader with a Legatum Leadership Award for his or her extraordinary contribution to African entrepreneurship. In total, the Zambezi Prize will award US$200,000 in cash prizes to entrepreneurs from the continent.

“We are supporting MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship because it is a world leader in finding and nurturing early-stage entrepreneurs with smart ideas to improve the lives of poor people in developing countries,” said Youssouf Sy, Associate Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation. “The Open Mic Africa program, followed by the Zambezi Prize itself, aligns perfectly with our own mission: to enable everyone to have the opportunity to learn and prosper.”

“This prize is redefining financial inclusion,” said Ali Diallo, the MIT Legatum Center Global Programs Manager. “The traditional definition of financial inclusion is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to low-income segments of society. We believe in a more holistic definition that focuses less on the mechanism and more on the end result. It is about creating the conditions, the environment, and the business models that help people access a better quality of life.”

The 2017 Zambezi Prize’s inclusive approach is reflected in the diverse teams of supporters that will be working together to celebrate Africa’s entrepreneurship landscape in the months ahead. Collaborators include former Zambezi prize finalists, the MIT Sloan Executive Education, the MIT Innovation Initiative, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, MIT’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), MIT’s Office of International Programs, MIT’s Office of Digital Learning, MIT D-Labs, the MIT Media Lab, MIT Office of External Relations, GSW@MIT, the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge, MISTI Africa, the MIT Sloan Africa Business Club; Bankable Frontier Associates, VC4Africa, Wimbart, Techpreneur Africa, the Solution Space at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Dakar Open Campus, and True Africa.

The Open Mic Africa tour and the Zambezi Prize competition are part of a broader effort by the MIT Legatum Center to build bridges between entrepreneurs at MIT and Africa (see below for additional details). The inaugural Zambezi Prize went to Umati Capital, a leading Kenyan financial service company that raised Seed and Series A rounds from Accion Venture Lab, Blue Haven Initiative and the Lundin Foundation.


About the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT is a global hub for MIT students, alumni, faculty and entrepreneurs who are committed to improving lives in the developing world through principled entrepreneurial leadership. The Center’s capstone initiative is the Legatum Fellowship program which provides aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world with MIT tuition, travel, mentoring and prototyping support. The Legatum Center equips future leaders with the skills, values and critical thinking they need to succeed as entrepreneurial change agents in the world. To learn more, please visit or follow the MIT Legatum Center on Twitter @MITLegatum.

About the MIT Legatum Center Africa Strategy

Responding to the recently released MIT Global Report and MIT’s regional priorities proposed by its Associate Provost, Professor Richard K. Lester, the MIT Legatum Africa Strategy is designed to build bridges between MIT and Africa with the goal of increasing the number of successful principled innovation-driven entrepreneurs that bring knowledge to bear on the continent’s greatest challenges. The MIT Legatum Center Africa Strategy includes a series of educational and thought leadership activities that will uphold the values that are embodied in the missions of the MIT Legatum Center and of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.

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Ali Diallo
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