Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group, one of the world’s largest e-commerce businesses, concluded his unprecedented visit to Africa and announced the $10 million ‘Netpreneur prize’ for African entrepreneurs during his keynote address at the “Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference in Johannesburg.

The conference which was organized by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Alibaba Business School and the Jack Ma Foundation had a pool of young African emerging entrepreneurs in attendance. The business mogul sang praises of young African entrepreneurs and their landmark achievements which has attracted foreign investment to the continent.

“Give good tax conditions to start-ups. Big companies don’t need these. Let’s get policies for start-ups and young companies,” Jack Ma said in Johannesburg. “Governments should encourage entrepreneurs. It’s the entrepreneur that will drive dreams in Africa. Small businesses create jobs. Dreams drive the economy,” he added.

The Chinese investor whose company has a market cap of $542bn called on entrepreneurs present at the conference to be resilient and work hard to address the future needs of Africa. In the wake of rising unemployment in the continent, he believes emerging businesses in Africa must address the needs of the continent.

“I believe today we should not talk about the robots and artificial intelligence in Africa. We should talk about innovative ways to solve job creation for Africa. If there are no jobs, no matter how excellent the innovation or the technology is, that is going to be a problem.”

Jack Ma ended his speech with the announcement of a new $10 million in funding prize for African entrepreneurs. The prize which is called, Jack Ma Foundation Netpreneur Prize, will be open to start-ups with $1 million in prize money every year for ten years. The first edition will be awarded in 2019.

“The foundation seeks to select 10 young leading netpreneurs annually who will share a prize pool of one million US according to their individual achievements. The total sum of the reward goes up to $10 million for 10 years.” a statement on its website read.

Despite the rising unemployment in the continent, investors remain undaunted by demonstrating their belief in African businesses in recent years through financing small businesses. These businesses are addressing the core problems by becoming employers of labour and raising more capital from venture capitalists to expand their businesses.

Technology is fast changing the world, with new innovations and inventions across the globe, the gale has also spread through Africa with many technology start-ups and hubs dotting cities across the continent. In 2017, tech start-ups in the continent raised over $195 million in investment and are expected to add an additional $150 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2022 if the growth continues at a fast pace. This will place them in the driving seat in the fourth industrial revolution in the continent and digitalization of Africa.

Ventures Africa / Abiola Durodola

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