Junior Achievement Africa’s High School Entrepreneurship Competition Returns For 12th Edition

L-R: MD, Agile Communications, Rufai Ladipo, Student, International School, University of Lagos, Folami Imisioluwa, Asheesh Advani, CEO, Junior Achievement Worldwide, Simi Nwogugu, CEO, Junior Achievement Africa, Tomorrow Foundation Rep – Denis Lebsis-Daronnat, Grant Specialist, PMIEF, Tim Swain, and the Executive Director, Junior Achievement Nigeria, Foluso Gbadamosi, at the press conference held in Lagos on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.

The JA Africa Company of the Year (COY) Competition, Africa’s largest high school entrepreneurship competition returns for the 12th year in a row and the first in-person meeting post-COVID, after two successful virtual competitions.

For this year’s competition, Lagos, Nigeria takes center stage as the three-day event kicked off with a press conference at the Prestigious Eko Hotel & Suites on 7th of December with the theme, “Fueling Changemakers.”JA Africa has a presence in 13 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and collectively reaches over 300,000 youth in more than 3,000 schools each year. The project is active in Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

COY is JA Africa’s annual celebration of winning teams from the JA Company Program, a program that equips senior secondary school level students with the entrepreneurial skillset and mindset to solve problems in their communities by launching a business venture and unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit. The young entrepreneurs who compete at JA Africa’s COY go through qualifying competitions at national and sub-national levels, competing against thousands of youth startups to qualify for the regional competition. This program transitions them into employment and transforms them into employers. Having emerged as national winners, they will represent their countries on the continental stage where they have the arduous task to impress a panel of international business professionals who serve as judges.

“Given the increasingly complex set of global challenges facing young people around the world from unemployment to climate change and food shortage, we focus on equipping our students to be solution providers who bring about positive change within their communities while developing businesses that generate wealth,” said Simi Nwogugu, JA Africa’s CEO.

“Our students have demonstrated great resilience and innovation in grappling with these challenges and I am extremely proud of all of them. I am also deeply grateful to all our sponsors who stayed with us throughout the pandemic period and contributed greatly towards making this a live event again.”

Also speaking at the press conference, Asheesh Advani, CEO, Junior Achievement Worldwide, said the initiative was borne out of instilling in young people the desire to innovate and foster the belief that they can create economic opportunities for themselves and for others.

“If you want to change the world, just get youth voices around the table for any decision, I feel fulfilled having heard from the school children how much impact JA has had in their lives.”

A cross-section of some of the members of the competing startups

The press conference which was moderated by Mr. Rufai Ladipo, Managing Director, Agile Communications, also had on the panel the representative of Tomorrow Foundation, Denis Lebsis-Daronnat, and Grant Specialist, PMIEF, Tim Swain who both spoke on their partnerships with JA Africa.

This year, nine student startups representing Eswatini, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe will put their business acumen to the test as they present the achievements of their businesses in numerous formats in order to win the prestigious title of JA Company of the Year and other amazing prizes from the sponsors. The highest among the prizes at stake will be the opportunity to represent the Africa region at the Ralph de la Vega Global Entrepreneurship Competition which will bring together COY winners from the six regions where JA Worldwide operates to compete for awards, $15,000, educational opportunities, and more.

A member of one of the competing startups for the COY, Folami Imisioluwa, a student of International School, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria, said that the program has had a great impact in her through thorough exposure to the world of entrepreneurship.

According to her, the series of workshops and financial literacy training by the organisation has prepared her to be a future leader. “I joined JA Nigeria when I was in SS2 when they brought the company program to our school. We were taught how to manage our finances and became aware of problems that most people overlook and provide solutions to them. The rigorous trainings and mentoring brought us to the finals as I will be showcasing the product my team and I built at the competition.”

The 2022 JA Africa COY Competition is made possible by the support of Headline sponsors: FedEx, Citi Foundation, and PMIEF, Platinum sponsors: Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson, Delta Air Lines, and FirstBank Nigeria; Gold sponsors: Tomorrow Foundation, Nascon, GB Foods, and Rise, who by supporting this competition are demonstrating their commitment to job creation and youth empowerment on the African continent.

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