In the challenging Southern African startup environment, a new startup is often made or broken based on the strength of its networks. For this reason, events that bring startup founders and innovation ecosystem actors together play a crucial role in the evolution of Southern Africa’s business landscape.
The Southern Africa Startup Awards is one such event. Entering its third year of existence in 2020, the event brings together startups from 15 SADC countries each year, spending one event day on training and connecting entrepreneurs, and the second day on recognising and awarding entrepreneurs and innovation actors for their successes.
“The purpose of the Southern Africa Startup Awards is to build regional connectivity and global visibility,” explains Mckevin Ayaba, CEO of the Southern Africa Startup Awards. “It’s about celebrating Africa and putting African startups, the people behind them, and the organisations that work alongside these visionaries on the map.” The grand finale took place on 27 and 28 November 2019, attracting over 300 startups from 12 countries.
SAIS 2 is one of the awards’ sponsors, having issued a grant to the Southern Africa Startup Awards as part of the first cohort of SAIS 2 Innovation Fund projects. According to SAIS 2 Lead Expert Ilari Lindy, “The award event serves to bring people together and build a crucial network for business – even friendships. It provides a platform for celebrating startup successes that not only inspires future champions but – perhaps even more critically – builds further cooperation and trust amongst all role players in the innovation ecosystem. One has to see the event not only as one activity, but rather as a process that strengthens the ecosystem needed to support startups,”
The 2019 Southern Africa Startup Awards offered nineteen different prizes. Of these, SAIS 2 took special note of two categories: the Award for Female Role Model of the Year in Tech as it is in line with programme’s gender equality aims, and the Award for Best Accelerator/Incubator, which was won by SAIS 2 Connected Hubs member Dololo from Windhoek, Namibia.
“It is commendable to see there is an award for women as relatively few of these exist in the innovation space,” said SAIS 2 Programme Manager Flora Ismail Tibazarwa. “SAIS 2 is particularly supportive of deliberate initiatives to foster female participation. Whilst providing a platform for startups, we can expect decent work and economic growth to come from those that scale up.”
The Southern Africa Startup Awards winners will have the opportunity to represent their country and region at the Global Startup Awards, the largest independent startup ecosystem event in the world.
See the 2019 regional winners from Southern Africa here.