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For Alumni
The Äänit Prize

Up to $80 000 dollars in funding is available annually to between one and four winners.

The Äänit Prize supports initiatives that can deliver positive social impact for Africa’s most marginalised populations. The competition is open to alumni of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship.

We seek businesses or non-profit projects that will deliver social impact, that are feasible and sustainable prospects, and that are run by people with the capability to succeed.

See how to apply

“Nelson Mandela really believed in the potential of young people. He believed that if we invest in young people and their dreams and ideas, we will see an acceleration of the transformation of the continent. We are therefore so excited to be launching the Äänit Prize.”

— Judy Sikuza, CEO

Judy Sikuza


2023 Äänit Prize

Kira Düsterwald and Maureen Etuket are the winners of the 2023 Äänit Prize, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation’s award for social impact in Africa. The young leaders from South Africa and Uganda will each receive $38 000, which is R723 000. The three unsuccessful finalists will each receive $1000 to offset the considerable effort it takes to enter the competition, and acknowledge the quality of the candidates.

Read the press release · Meet all the 2023 finalists

DecorationKira Dusterwald, Amathambo AI

Kira Dusterwald, Amathambo AI

Amathambo AI aims to address Africa's healthcare challenges by using artificial intelligence to optimise resource allocation. Their initial focus is on automating and improving staff rostering systems, which can reduce wait times, enhance health outcomes, and boost staff satisfaction. By using machine learning to predict patient loads, they will match staffing levels to demand. The team, comprised of experts in African health systems and machine learning, is excited about the potential of bottom-up interventions to improve healthcare across the continent.

DecorationMaureen Etuket, SMART PVD

Maureen Etuket, SMART PVD

A major cause of maternal deaths in Uganda is Post-partum hemorrhage (PPH); a condition marked by excessive blood loss. This can be promptly diagnosed and managed with the use of timely and accurate blood loss estimates after childbirth. Misreading the amount of blood lost and the time-consuming implementation of available solutions in clinical settings with low midwife-to-patient ratios have been primarily blamed for the delay in PPH diagnosis. As a result, our team designed the Smart Post-Partum Hemorrhage Volumetric Drape (SMART PVD) device to empower midwives to manage PPH with evidence-based decisions while increasing their productivity and ultimately saving mother’s lives.

Previous winners

DecorationAtherton Mutombwera, CEO of Hutano Diagnostics

Atherton Mutombwera, CEO of Hutano Diagnostics

Hutano aims to save lives by developing better, faster testing technology for diagnosing dangerous diseases in resource-poor contexts.

DecorationDr Jessica Ronaasen, National Programmes Lead at the Do More Foundation

Dr Jessica Ronaasen, National Programmes Lead at the Do More Foundation

The Do More Foundation brings the public and private sectors together to improve early childhood development outcomes.

DecorationKoaile Monaheng, Director of Khantša Energy

Koaile Monaheng, Director of Khantša Energy

Khantša Energy aims to “light up Lesotho” by bringing renewable energy to remote, impoverished areas.

DecorationShantel Marekera, Founder of Little Dreamers Foundation

Shantel Marekera, Founder of Little Dreamers Foundation

Little Dreamers Foundation runs an affordable preschool in the under-serviced neighbourhoods of Budidiro Cabs, Zimbabwe.

Winners of the 2022 Äänit Prize

Read the press release · Meet all the 2022 finalists

DecorationEsethu Cenga, Co-founder of Rewoven

Esethu Cenga, Co-founder of Rewoven

Winner of the 2021 Äänit Prize

Rewoven diverts textile waste from landfill by collecting it from source and recycling it into new fabric. Rewoven's manufacturing process uses 99% less water and generates 50% less CO2 emissions than normal production processes. The fabric has the same look and quality as fabric made from virgin fibers.

Read the press release · Meet all the 2021 finalists

Watch the announcement

Am I eligible?

For alumni

Entrants must be Mandela Rhodes Alumni (any year from 2005 onwards) or Rhodes Scholar Alumni (from 2005 onwards).

Demonstrable impact

Entrants must demonstrate that they are contributing (or will contribute) to one of the below impact areas in Africa.


Entrants must be founders, co-founders or members of the executive team of the business or organisation which they are entering.

Any model and stage

Non-Profit and For-Profit initiatives are both eligible. Initiatives at different stages of development can apply.

Successful candidates will be expected to stay with their projects for two years from the time of the award.

Which impact areas are included?

We are interested in 10 impact areas which support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and are particularly important in the African context.

Access to affordable housing

Agriculture and food security

Climate change

Conflict and terrorism


Energy access

Financial services

Healthcare, water and sanitation


Technology and data

“It’s important to focus our minds on business being linked to society’s needs, instead of just being about profit regardless of whether the impact is positive or negative. We are moving to an era where business has to be part of the solution to our problems. That’s probably what Madiba would have told us to do.”

— Mo Ibrahim, Former Trustee

Mo Ibrahim

How to apply

Step 0: Before you start, read this

Identify which stage your venture is in

We consider initiatives at all stages. You will be asked to tell us which stage yours is in. Select the best fit. We will also ask whether you have any employees.

  1. Ideation stage: an idea that has potential and can feasibly deliver impact if implemented
  2. Early-stage venture: an initiative that is established & operating, but is either not yet earning revenue, or earning modest revenue. May have some employees. The venture should have potential for delivering social &/ or environmental impact
  3. Established venture: an organisation or business that is operating and has paid employees. The venture should have already delivered social &/or environmental impact and be poised to grow
  4. Mature venture: established, with stable operations. Employing 50+ people - The venture delivers significant social and/or environmental impact

Identify the impact area you are working in

These 10 priority areas support the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. If your project spans multiple areas, choose the one that is the best fit or the primary area of impact.

  1. Access to affordable housing
  2. Agriculture and food security
  3. Climate change
  4. Conflict and terrorism
  5. Education
  6. Energy access
  7. Financial services access
  8. Healthcare, water and sanitation
  9. Infrastructure
  10. Technology and data

Fill out the form and submit your indication of interest

We do not expect you to provide a full application at this stage. We are looking for an elevator pitch: a short, clear, and compelling motivation. We are looking for:

  • IMPACT: ventures which clearly align with the impact areas
  • FEASIBILITY: ventures which are realistic and likely to deliver that impact
  • CAPABILITY: ventures which are run by candidates with the leadership skills and capabilities needed to succeed, and who represent our values


Step 1: Indicate interest (16 May 2024 - 30 May 2024)

Submit a short motivation explaining why your project, business, or idea is socially impactful. Tell us how you plan to realise it and why you’re the perfect person/team that has what it takes to make it happen. Don’t self exclude — we’ve designed this part of the process to make applying quick, easy and approachable.

Step 2: Wait to be invited to apply

We will review all of the indications of interest and then invite up to 30 candidates to submit full applications. We will let you know if you are not successful.

Step 3: Submit your application (12 June 2024 - 11 July 2024)

Submit your application. This will include a written project statement, a project /business plan (maximum of 12 pages) and relevant supporting documents. All applications will be evaluated by reviewers with relevant experience and expertise.

Step 4: Prepare to pitch

The longlisted candidates will be invited to an interview in the week of 19 August 2024, which will include a short pitch that builds on the value proposition of your written application.

Step 5: Iterate and improve

The candidates who go through to the final round will receive written comments. They will have 48 hours to improve their proposals and record a two-minute pitch to submit.

Step 6: Winners decided

The shortlisted candidates’ applications will be sent to an external, independent panel of judges. They will make a final decision on how many winners to choose, and how to allocate the prize money.

The winners will be informed and then announced publicly at a celebration on 14 September 2024.

“Our vision for entrepreneurship in Africa stems from our mandate to address inequality and contribute to the achievement of true equality. We know that innovative and creative individuals can make a significant difference to the lives of people across the continent.”

— Professor Njabulo S. Ndebele, Former Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Prof. Njabulo Ndebele


Äänit means “common work” or “joint effort” in the language Koalib, a minority language spoken in Sudan. This name speaks to our belief in coming together to take collective responsibility for Africa’s future. It was also chosen to highlight our continent’s linguistic diversity.

No, but the project or initiative you are entering into the competition must be based in Africa.

The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship’s first Class was chosen in 2005. Limiting the number of Rhodes Scholars to those from 2005 onward contributes towards parity in the pool.

That’s okay! We accept entries from candidates at the ideation stage. Visit the “entry categories” section for more information.

Winners will be asked to identify monitoring and evaluation criteria for their projects and share them with the MRF bi-annually for a period of two years. The MRF can ask for an update on your project annually for up to five years.

None, other than the reporting requirements outlined above.

“I am delighted to hear about the Äänit Prize because I know that there are many talented young people in the Mandela Rhodes and Rhodes Scholar Alumni communities with brilliant ideas, who can make those ideas come to fruition with the right funding and support.”

— Graça Machal

Graça Machal

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