The five winners were selected from over 2,200 entries from 35 countries.
Google, Wednesday, announced the five winners of the Africa Connected competition at an event in Nairobi, Kenya.
The winners, including Sitawa Wafula (Kenya), Christopher Panford (Ghana), and Eunice Namirembe (Uganda), were presented before an audience which had tech leaders including Pierre Dandjinou, Vice-President ICANN; Emma Kaye, Founder of BozzaMobi; Dele Nedd, CEO of Descasio; and poet and author Lola Shoneyin, in attendance.
The competition was launched in August 2013 for entrepreneurs, creatives, innovators and web-lovers to share stories of how the web has transformed their lives and work.
According to a statement by the organisers, the five winners were selected from over 2,200 entries from 35 countries, by a panel of judges as well as public voters. The winners will bag $25,000 (N4 million) each, and will also have the opportunity to work with a Google sponsor over a six-month period to further their online success.
“There are over 1 billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa and currently 16 per cent of them are online. With Africa Connected, we wanted to celebrate how the web is changing lives in Africa, and show how it is contributing to the socio-economic development of the continent. Selecting the shortlist was no easy task: each winner shares a unique perspective of how they have used the internet to solve a problem, earn a living, or create opportunities, not just for themselves, but also for others around them”, Affiong Osuchukwu, Google Lead for the Africa Connected initiative, said.
Sitawa Wafulu from Kenya used Google Blogger to establish an award winning blog on mental health in East Africa. Sitawa hopes to build a physical resource centre where people can access information online and get much-needed help to manage their conditions while Eseoghene Odiete from Nigeria learnt how to create handbags using Google Search and YouTube.
With the help of contacts found via Search, over 100 blogs have featured her vibrant designs.
Ms. Odiete also dreams of building an international brand that promotes African designs. She also runs training classes for other women who want to start businesses.
Christopher Panford, a Ghanaian, runs a transport company helping Ghanaian drivers access vehicle loans, which they use to earn a living. He uses Google Maps to constantly monitor the location of vehicles under bank loans. This assures banks that their loans are protected, while Christopher empowers more drivers.
Eric Obuh, aka Vocal Slender, a Nigerian, used to be a dump site scavenger, in order to pay for studio time to record his music. After being discovered by the BBC in ‘Welcome to Lagos’, he became known around the world. Eric has recorded songs which he shares with new audiences on YouTube. He also uses Google+ and YouTube to raise awareness about underprivileged youngsters in the slums of Lagos, helping to raise scholarship money, and encouraging kids to stay in school.
Uganda’s Eunice Namirembe runs The Medical Concierge Group which helps Ugandan communities access quality healthcare and information. Physician Eunice has built a 24-hour ambulance call centre by using the Google Cloud console and Google Maps to record patient information and track patient locations. With these tools, Eunice and her team are able to help connect more Ugandans to medical services, thus saving lives in the process.
In an effort to invest in the future success of all the finalists, Google also surprised another five success stories by awarding them $10,000 (N1.6 million) each to help grow their ventures and initiatives for greater social and economic impact.
Recipients included; Tim McGuire (South Africa), Nqobizitha Mlilo (Zimbabwe), Mayowa Adegbile (Nigeria), Lamine Mbengue (Senegal) and Steve Kyenze (Kenya).