PARIS — Orange, a French telecommunications company, has launched the fourth annual African Social Venture Prize. The prize is meant to award entrepreneurs developing products and technologies intended to benefit Africa in varying fields like agriculture, commerce, education, energy, health, industry and trade.
Orange operates in 18 African countries and serves nearly 100 million customers. Given its large role in shaping the economy and development of Africa, Orange strives to improve connections in rural areas and introduce more mobile-based services. In an effort to make the greatest impact possible, the company supports many entrepreneurs and firms, small and middle-sized, giving them access to finance and digital development tools.
The African Social Venture Prize is another Orange initiative intended to promote social entrepreneurship and accelerate development within the continent. The goal of the competition is to “improve the living conditions of the populations” in African countries. More than 1,500 project proposals have been submitted to the competition since its inception in 2011, showing the “potential of the telecommunications sector” to stimulate development in Africa. This year, a new category has been added to the competition—the Orange Partner Award—which will honor the best project that integrates an Orange application with a special prize of 10,000 EUR.
The competition also recognizes three other projects, granting monetary prizes of 25,000 EUR, 15,000 EUR and 10,000 EUR. All four winners will receive a six-month support package from entrepreneurship and ICT experts, and the first prize winner will be given a patent submission in the specific country of the project’s deployment.
The first phase of the competition will begin with the general public voting online for project proposals listed on Orange’s entertainment portal. Along with other finalists chosen by different experts in the fields, the project that receives the most online votes will be submitted to the jury.
Regardless of nationality, all legal entities fewer than three years old and entrepreneurs aged 21 and over are invited to participate in the competition at no cost. The submitted projects must not only use information and communications technology, but also plan to be implemented in at least one of the African countries that Orange serves. Applications for project proposals will be accepted from May 22 to September 19, 2014.
Last year, Orange received 450 project submissions that addressed development issues in a variety of fields. The final round of the competition featured 12 nominated projects, from which the judges chose three prizewinners. The panel of judges for the competition was composed of specialists and experts at Orange and other institutions that support development. An awards ceremony was later held in Cape Town, South Africa.
The first prize was awarded to QuickDo, a startup founded by a French-Cameroonian entrepreneur in 2011. Based on a “responsible and sustainable approach,” QuickDo provides Cameroonians with affordable access to digital books and e-book readers.
The Ivoire Job project was given the second prize award. Using an online platform that is “compatible with mobile devices through an SMS-based system,” Ivoire Job expands access to employment opportunities for those living in Ivory Coast. The platform also serves as a medium for young job seekers, workers and recruiters to discuss their experiences in their respective fields.
Tunisian company Chifco was awarded the third prize. Chifco strives to save energy when using high-consumption devices at home and in the workplace. The main goal of the project is to help users decrease energy spending by monitoring and controlling the use of those devices in real time.