During the Youth Connekt Africa Summit hosted by UNCTAD and the Government of Rwanda in Kigali last week, Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced the creation of the African Young Entrepreneurs Fund.
Ma is reportedly poised to hire staff for the planned $10 million fund, which will begin operations this year. “I want that fund supporting African online businesses,” he said, “The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval.”
As well as capital, Ma plans to work with UNCTAD to bring 200 African business people to China to learn from Alibaba’s success. Founded in 1999, the global e-commerce giant is now valued at $231 billion, and the plan is to provide the entrepreneurs with the opportunity to learn practical business building skills from the firm’s executives and operations. “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.”
In addition to his plans for the fund, Ma plans to roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce, noting that internet access is a more important “natural resource” than coal and electricity have been in the past.
As well as leading Alibaba, Ma is a Special Adviser to UNCTAD for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business.