2020 was an unexpected voyage into a world of unequivocal uncertainty, from political unrest across the globe to the prodigious undertaking of developing a vaccine for a pandemic that was and still is disrupting lives and livelihoods. Conventional wisdom suggested that the Alliance should postpone its annual application cycle in search of the 14th class of Harambeans. As an Alliance with a paucity of fear and an affinity for resilience, it is not surprising that our decision to push through with the application process for the 14th class of Harambeans led to the assembly of one of our most formidable cohort of African executioners yet. The 30 innovators invited to join the Alliance were selected from over 4900 applicants, a 30% increase in our applicant pool. Representing 8 African countries, 23 universities and 8 accelerators, the incoming class of Harambeans have collectively raised over $130 million in venture capital.
These African leaders, with a deep reverence for the Continent, will join a Pan-African alliance of over 300 Harambeans – ordinary people doing extraordinary things. As Admissions Director, I am thrilled by the prospects of these entrepreneurs knowing how valuable their contributions will be to Africa’s development at a time when the centrality of entrepreneurship cannot be overstated enough. On a continent with a youth population of over 226 million, innovators with a track record of job creation across all sectors will be critical for success.
The 14th class of Harambeans are an aggregate of individuals with a personal nexus so integral to the core of their ventures that their raison d’etre is nothing but inspirational. The class includes a Harambean from South Africa who is building one of the more competitive payment solutions that seeks to drive economic inclusion and equality of outcomes for small business owners; a winner of the Innovator of the Year Prize at the 2016 All Africa Business Leaders Awards who has created over 1000 jobs and delivered on the promise of exceptional education for more than 12 000 children in South Africa; a Harvard Business School graduate building a tech-driven logistics services company that seamlessly coordinates haulage across frontier markets; a Ghanaian who has been accepted into Y Combinator twice; a former Head of Product Marketing at Google currently helping fortune 500 companies to reimagine their spaces; and the first woman to win the Royal Academy of Engineers Africa Prize for Innovation Award.
These individuals have displayed a remarkable commitment to excellence and affinity for the Harambean values of collaboration, deliberate audacity and servant leadership. Our recruitment process was strengthened by more than 120 nominations from Harambeans, investors, accelerators and universities. I was deeply humbled by the reasons these entrepreneurs, who are successful in their own right, gave when completing our long and grueling application to join the Alliance. One admitted candidate noted, “I would like to connect with like-minded Africans looking to propel the future of the continent to greater heights. I learnt about the Alliance through a Harambean who referred me to Harambe. After further investigation, I discovered that several more entrepreneurs who I know and respect are Harambeans. I decided that I want to be part of this group of brilliant Africans looking to solve the challenges holding Africa back from realizing its full potential.”
The 14th class will sign the declaration virtually in May and be officially welcomed to our Alliance at the Harambe Bretton Woods Symposium in November 2021 where they will reaffirm our collective pledge ‘to work together as one’ to build Africa’s future.
Written by Daniel Boateng, Director of Admissions.