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Jack Ma, the Alibaba Group founder and UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) special envoy, today challenged African entrepreneurs to seize the opportunities presented to them.
Ma, who is on his second trip to Africa, was speaking at a special event organised by the Alibaba Business School, Unctad and the Jack Ma Foundation where he announced a new $10-million prize to support African entrepreneurs (see more here).
Ma described African entrepreneurs as being “first class” and said although the continent has plenty of problems, it is also “full of opportunities”. He called on innovators to look at challenges like lack of infrastructure and poor logistics as opportunities.
“The same questions people are asking you now, how can Africa have internet companies, how can you do ecommerce, you don’t have credit cards, you don’t have government support, you don’t have anything, that’s the opportunity,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs “never complain, but make other people complain”.
Jack Ma calls on African innovators to look at challenges like lack of infrastructure and poor logistics as opportunities
“So, today Africa you don’t have bank accounts — a lot of people don’t have bank accounts. You don’t have logistics, you don’t have the credit card system. This is opportunity, go build up (on) this,” said Ma.
He predicted that in 10 to 20 years Africa will have “10 or 20 Alibaba companies” and called on African governments to create tax policies that favour small businesses and startups.
“Its the entrepreneurs that will drive African economies,” he said.
During his touched on the $10-million African Netpreneur Prize which he said was “just the beginning, and a test”.
The Netpreneur Prize – named for empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs, and focusing on small business growth, grassroots innovation and women founders – will award $10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years.
Starting from next year, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with 10 finalists selected from across the continent to showcase their talent and business ideas and compete for $1-million in prize money.
All 10 finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices and resources.
Featured image: President Cyril Ramaphosa receiving a courtesy call from Mr Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group (GovernmentZA via Flickr)