After being impressed by Africa’s entrepreneurial potential during his first visit to the continent, Jack Ma, Alibaba Group founder and Executive Chairman through the Alibaba Business School partnered with UNCTAD to launch eFounders Fellowship Initiative, a program aimed at training 1000 entrepreneurs from emerging markets with the purpose of building a community of young entrepreneurs committed to creating digital platforms to build more inclusive economies.
Following this, Jack Ma announced the Jack Ma Foundation Netpreneur Prize during the “Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference that was just concluded in South Africa. The program’s purpose is to support and fund African entrepreneurs who are working to address Africa’s most important challenges and further its digital economy through local entrepreneurship.
The Netpreneur Prize will award $10 Million to 100 African entrepreneurs over a period of 10 years. The program which is set to begin in 2019, will be in the form of an annual pitch competition where 10 finalists will be selected from across Africa, by a team of judges, to compete for the $1 Million prize money.
All 10 finalists will receive grant funding of unnamed amount 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.
“As a fellow entrepreneur, I understand the importance of getting support during the early days. This prize demonstrates our support of the next generation of young entrepreneurs across Africa who are paving the way for a better future and imparting positive change in their communities. I am inspired and encouraged by these entrepreneurs who, together, will help build a sustainable, inclusive economy for Africa and for the world,” said Jack Ma during the conference.
Open to All Africans
The competition is open to all African entrepreneurs across all industries but Jack Ma expects many of the competing entrepreneurs to have internet-driven solutions. Applications for the first pitch competition will be open from January 2019 until April 2019 and the finalist pitch competition will be held and broadcast across Africa in the second half of 2019.
The program will be offered across the continent through lead continental partner, Nailab, and other regional hub partners.
“We have and continue to be driven by the mission to facilitate knowledge transfer and open up opportunities for startups in Kenya and across the continent. This is one of those opportunities that we believe and know will create a network of entrepreneurs that not only showcase the African startups but will help tell the African startup stories as they drive change in the continent,” said Sam Gichuru, Nailab Founder and CEO.