About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

A South African challenge

This past September, we spent two days at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was inspiring. Working with the ALA’s Anzisha Prize team and having the opportunity to spend time with some of the young people studying at ALA served as an important justification for Nesta’s drive to develop challenge prizes that have the potential for real impact on the social issues that affect people’s lives.

The ALA reached out to us for guidance around methodology, reach and impact of their Anzisha Prize, which recognises young African entrepreneurs. My colleague, Eleonora Corsini and I worked with the Prize team, Josh, Grace, Melissa and Fanta, to consider whether the Anzisha Prize should shift its emphasis from being a recognition prize, which rewards a past achievement, to being a challenge prize, which rewards whoever first or best meets a pre-defined challenge. Following an evaluation process, the Anzisha team recognised their prize’s further potential to stimulate a collaborative pan-African ethos and to build robust entrepreneurial skills among young Africans.

African Leadership Academy

The African Leadership Academy’s vision and mission is based on the simple premise that shaping the ethical and entrepreneurial mindsets and practices of young Africans can lead them to have a transformative impact on the future of Africa. ALA aims to generate a pan-African network of leaders that will work together to address Africa’s greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent’s growth.

Each year, there is an intake of 200 people between the ages of 16 and 19 from all over Africa.  These young people have demonstrated leadership potential through community action in their home countries. They are guided through a unique ALA curricula that maximises their potential and instils them with pride for their continent, which welcomes them back no matter where their increased opportunities take them.

Anzisha Prize

Among the programmes that ALA delivers is the Anzisha Prize, the result of wanting to reach more young Africans beyond those in the Academy’s regular intake. It also stems from a desire to recognise the diverse entrepreneurship endeavours of young Africans. The Anzisha Prize is Africa's premier award for young entrepreneurs aged 15-22 who have started and are actively running innovative social ventures or for-profit businesses with potential.

The annual programme rewards 12 finalists with a range of financial and non-financial rewards. The key reward is an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to benefit from a week-long entrepreneurship workshop and conference at the African Leadership Academy. A selection of winners share prizes worth USD$75,000.

Reward or Inducement

ALA are constantly striving to improve their offering to young people and want to set the benchmark for how they identify and support young African potential. To this end, the Anzisha Prize team wanted to explore, with Nesta’s Centre for Challenge Prizes, how they could increase the impact of the Prize on young lives.

The Centre for Challenge Prizes designed and delivered the workshops, which touched upon  a number of different areas:

  • Key differences between a reward and inducement prize

  • Challenge prize design and implementation methodology

  • Anzisha Prize operational timeline and activities

  • Understanding the young people Anzisha wants to attract to the prize

  • Benefits and barriers for young people to access the prize

  • Anzisha Prize theory of change

The Anzisha Prize is ambitious about its role in framing the perception of young African entrepreneurship across the continent. One of the key benefits of a challenge prize over a reward prize is its power to leverage support from partners to build young entrepreneurs’ capacity to further impact undervalued yet critical areas of development, such as agriculture.   

There is a lot of work still to be done, but the determination of the small team to strengthen its offering and maximise the potential of the Prize was evident to us.

Special thanks goes to Tenashi, one of the second year students, who gave us a tour of the complex and all the other students who took time to share their experiences and aspirations with us. The African Leadership Academy is an inspiring place to be that gives me confidence, as a woman of African heritage, that the chances of having innovative, ethical and enterprising future African leaders, who are well equipped to deal with the continent's challenges, are all the greater.


Anzisha Prize team during the workshop. From left to right: Melissa Mbazo, Program Fellow; Grace Kalisha, Program Manager; Fanta Traore, Program Fellow  

Designing the Anzisha Prize Theory of Change



Constance Agyeman

Constance Agyeman

Constance Agyeman

Director of International Development, Challenge Works

At Challenges Works, Constance brought over 20 years experience in the voluntary sector to develop national and international programs which engage communities.

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