She Leads Africa, a social enterprise aimed at ensuring that women are part of Africa’s growth story, has launched a business pitch competition for African women--on the continent and in the diaspora. The organization is looking for early stage startups that want to meet investors, gain access to new mentors, and grow across Africa.

The competition is open to all businesses that have at least one woman on the founding team. In addition, she should be between 18-35 years old. The company should have received less than $50,000 USD in funding, should have been in operation for less than 3 years and should have a live product on the market.

“Female entrepreneurs are unfortunately missing from the conversation around Africa’s growth story,” Afua Osei, Founder of She Leads Africa said in an interview via email. “But the continent will not be able to reach its full potential without the full economic participation of women,” she added.

The top 10 finalists will convene in Lagos, Nigeria in September to pitch their businesses in front of a panel of experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and financiers. The judges are Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Chairman, Etisalat Nigeria, Ngozi Edozien, CEO InVivo Partners, Bola Adesola, CEO Standard Chartered and Tokunboh Ishmael, Managing Director, Aletheia Capital.

She Leads Africa will support all applicants even if they do not make the final 10 cut to pitch their business ideas. “[We are] committed to fully developing strong female entrepreneurs so applicants who are not selected for the finals will be invited to stay connected to our community through networking events, online resources and mentorship sessions,” Osei said.

Finalists will compete for $10,000 as well as access to the knowledge, networks, and financing to build and scale strong businesses. The second place winner will also receive $5,000.

When asked what advice she has for young women who want to become entrepreneurs, Osei said the most significant thing is to just start. “Often times we get paralyzed in planning and thinking about what we don't have, without recognising the strong talents we have in our intelligence, perseverance, and relationships and those are the building blocks to any successful business,” she said.

She added “while everyone will have a different path to starting their business, everyone must believe in themselves and their ideas and take that first step towards making it a reality.”

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