Small Enterprise

Alibaba gives Sh1bn to support 200 African online businesses

Alibaba founder Jack Ma. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Alibaba founder Jack Ma. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has announced a $10 million (Sh1 billion) support to about 200 African online businesses.

Promising entrepreneurs will be picked by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to participate in the programme dubbed African Young Entrepreneurs Fund. It will be operational later this year.

Successful business people will be flown to China to gain hands-on experience at the Alibaba headquarters.

Mr Ma, a UNCTAD special adviser for youth entrepreneurship and small businesses and advocate for sustainable development goals, made the announcement during a youth summit co-hosted by the UN agency and the Government of Rwanda.

“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,” said Mr Ma.

Mr Ma flew to Rwanda after completing his two-day Nairobi visit last week. The Youth Connekt Africa Summit in Kigali brought together over 1,500 participants from government, entrepreneurial and investor communities, multinationals, and startups “shaping the African technological ecosystem”.

The billionaire said the Fund has started recruiting staff ahead of its official launch later this year.

Mr Ma also plans to roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.

The entrepreneur is working with UNCTAD to explore opportunities that enable African businesses participate in global trade, as well as to raise awareness on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the international community in 2015.

In his maiden African trip to both countries, the Alibaba Founder has been sharing his experience of building his company, which started in 1999 into a global e-commerce giant valued at more than $231 billion.

The challenges he has faced to the top formed a major part of his talk. He stressed the importance of internet access in all nations, saying it is a more important raw material for economies than coal and electricity were in the past.