Founder and CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has launched a $10 million program targeting young entrepreneurs across Africa seeking funding for their tech startups.
Jack Ma made the announcement during the Youth Connekt Africa Summit held in Rwanda last week. The summit was co-hosted by UNCTAD and the Rwandese Government.
“I want that fund supporting African online businesses. The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval. I want them to go China, meeting our people, seeing all the things we have been doing, all the great ideas China has. They know what they want. And when they know what they want, we can support it,” said Ma.
Ma wants to take the top 200 entrepreneurs from Africa to China, where they can learn first-hand about Alibaba’s journey. Ma is also looking to partner with universities across the continent to curate teaching materials on internet technology, e-commerce, and artificial intelligence. All the tools a young person needs to be armed with before embarking on creating a startup business online.
Ma, who was on his first trip to Africa, is the Special Adviser to UNCTAD for young entrepreneurs and SMEs. He also gave a public lecture at the University of Nairobi (UON) last week on July 20th before traveling to Rwanda for the Summit.
While at the UON, Ma was accompanied by UNCTAD Secretary General, Mukhisa Kituyi, where he shared his journey into making Alibaba the e-commerce giant it is today. Ma shared with the students about how he founded the company back in 1999 and see it growth over the years to becoming a $231 billion company it is currently.
UNCTAD has set out on an agenda to raise youth awareness of the 2030 Sustainable Development goal as adopted by the international community back in 2015. UNCTAD tagged along Ma on their mission to not only inspire the youth, but also provide them opportunities in his networks, influence, and financial muscle.
Internet access is a key to economic growth
Ma stressed on the pivotal role access to the internet plays for any nation wishing to grow in this 21st-century world. Ma says internet access has become an important raw material, just like electricity or coal has been to running of industries and businesses over the years.
“Not being connected to the internet today is worse than not having electricity 100 years ago. I think e-commerce, internet, Big Data is the future. You can never stop it. You like it or don’t like it. But you will never stop it. Every time you have a technological revolution, it will kill a lot of jobs and it will create a lot of jobs. This is what history tells us.”