Jack Ma,founder of Alibaba Group, launches $10m Netpreneur Prize for African startups

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Chinese billionaire and founder of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, has launched the Netpreneur Prize. A US$10 million award prize to cater for 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years starting from 2019, it is designed to empower a new generation of entrepreneurs, and will focus on small business growth, grassroots innovation and women founders.

The condition to leverage the prize money is that a startup must be African targeting to address Africa’s most important challenges and improve its march into the digital economy. Netpreneur Prize intends to be a  champion of local entrepreneurs.

Ma, a UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) special envoy expressed faith in Africa’s ability to address its numerous challenges through the innovative ideas off its young entrepreneurs. He called on innovators to look at challenges like lack of infrastructure and poor logistics as opportunities.


The super-entrepreneur who made Alibaba a global brand tasked African entrepreneurs and innovators to consider leveraging the continent’s lack of infrastructures as opportunities to resolve problems. Ma was speaking at the ‘Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions’ conference – a special event – organised by the Alibaba Business School, UNCTAD and the Jack Ma Foundation to launch the US$10 million Netpreneur Prize.

“People are asking you now, how can Africa have internet companies, how can you do ecommerce, you don’t have credit cards, you don’t have government support, you don’t have anything, a lot of people don’t have bank accounts. You don’t have logistics, that’s the opportunity,” Ma told his audience of majorly young Africans drawn from across the continent inside the Johannesburg event venue in South Africa.

But the billionaire businessman also tasked African governments to create right tax policies that engender growth of small businesses. Ma affirmed that friendly business policies are a condition to create dozen of Alibaba companies in the next few years on the continent.

Under the new deals for young Africans, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition. Ten finalists selected from across the continent to showcase their talent and business ideas and compete for US$1 million prize money.

All 10 finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices and resources.

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