It remains to be seen if Africa will make the most of Jack Ma’s investment of millions into the continent.
Last week, Ma, a Chinese business magnate who is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of Internet-based businesses, launched the African Young Entrepreneurs Fund worth $10 million.
It has been further revealed that Ma plans to also roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.
Ma announced the creation of a African Young Entrepreneurs Fund, during the Youth Connekt Africa Summit co-hosted by UNCTAD and the Government of Rwanda last week.
Ma, who is on his first visit to Africa. Also visited Kenya on last Thursday.
Ma said, “I want that fund supporting African online businesses,”
Ma the other commitments in his busy schedule.
For example, he is special adviser to UNCTAD for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
“The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval,” Ma explained.
He added that he was poised to hire staff for the fund, set to begin operations this year.
Ma said that he would also work with UNCTAD to help bring 200 budding African businesspeople to his homeland China to learn from Alibaba hands on.
“I want them to go to China, meeting our people, seeing all the things we have been doing, all the great ideas China has,” he said. “They know what they want. And when they know what they want, we can support it,” Ma further remarked.
UNCTAD is working with Ma to explore opportunities with African businesses to participate in global trade. As well as to raise awareness of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Which was adopted by the international community in 2015.
In addition, to his role as an adviser to UNCTAD. Ma also serves as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.
He said, “Not being connected to the internet today is worse than not having electricity 100 years ago.”
Ma also pointed to the big implications for economies and the labour market.
He continued, “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.”
Ma emphasized on the importance of his plan to roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.
He has been sharing his experience of having built his company, founded in 1999, into a global e-commerce giant valued at more than $231bn. And how he met the string of challenges that he faced along the way.
Ma underscored the importance of internet access in all nations, saying it was an even more important raw material for economies than coal and electricity were in the past.
The Youth Connekt Africa Summit, held in Kigali. Brought together more than 1,500 participants from government, entrepreneurial and investor communities, multinationals, and startups shaping the African technological ecosystem.
Unlocking Africa’s e-commerce is a key priority for UNCTAD, given the potential of online trade to power development.
Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD secretary-general said, “African entrepreneurs should not be asking successful businesses, ‘How can I distribute your products?’, Africans should be saying, ‘I have an idea I want to grow – how can you help me to grow it? How can you help me market it?’.”