Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and executive chairman has launched a $10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund to support youthful online entrepreneurs across the continent. Mr. Ma launched the fund during the Youth Connekt Africa Summit held last week in Rwanda and co-hosted by UNCTAD and the Government of Rwanda.
“I want that fund supporting African online businesses,” said Mr. Ma. “The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval. I want them to go to 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.”
The fund is set to start hiring staff then start local operations before the end of the year. Mr Ma, who is on his first trip to Africa is a Special Adviser to UNCTAD for young entrepreneurs and small business and was accompanied by UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. Mr. Ma was invited to share his Alibaba journey since its humble start in 1999 to a global e-commerce giant worth over $231 billion.
UNCTAD is working with Mr. 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, Mr. Ma also serves as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.
Ma spoke to the youth and small businesses in Kenya and then headed to Rwanda where he spoke at the Youth Connekt Africa Summit which brought together more than 1,500 participants from government, entrepreneurial and investor communities, multinationals, and startups.
During his speeches, Mr. Ma underscored the importance of internet access in all nations as an important raw material for economies just as coal and electricity were in the past. Working with UNCTAD, Ma aims to take 200 budding African entrepreneurs to China to learn from Alibaba’s journey. He also aims to partner with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce to help more youths to take up online businesses and create their own jobs.
“Not being connected to the internet today is worse than not having electricity 100 years ago,” he said. “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 said.