'Project Inspire' is local spin on 'Apprentice'

JOHANNESBURG — Aspiring entrepreneurs from across east Africa are competing in a new reality show that offers a local spin on “The Apprentice.”

“Project Inspire Africa” is the brainchild of Nelson Tugume, a Ugandan entrepreneur who, after winning his country’s prestigious Young Achievers Award, decided to push budding businessmen and women from across the region to pursue their dreams.

The show, which draws 24 contestants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, will wrap its 13-week run April 1 in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The winner will receive $50,000 in start-up coin to launch his or her own business.

The series follows a well-known reality script, with contestants living together and competing in a variety of contests, and losers getting booted off by auds each week.

Challenges are designed to test the contestants’ business acumen in a range of settings. In one episode, Tugume gave each competitor $40 to buy fruit they had to hawk on the side of the road. In another, contestants developed a new route and marketing strategy for the Rwandan national airline, which the company later adopted.

Exec says it’s his personal mission to “wage a preemptive war against African poverty.” He launched the show to change perceptions of the continent, and to prove to young African men and women “that we are able to build something for ourselves” through entrepreneurship.

Later this year, he plans to take the show on the road, with agreements already in the works that would expand the series to South Africa and Nigeria. The move, says Tugume, is part of the larger vision he has for entrepreneurship in Africa.

“The opportunities are immense here,” he says. “What I tell the young people is that the solutions are within us, not anyone else. We just have to get down to work.”

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