AFRICA DIALOGUES IS BACK TO BEIJING .October 25, 2019
MY STORY: OPPORTUNITY DISGUISED AND THE DUAPA FACTORNovember 25, 2019
In his address in South Africa last year, former CEO and Co-Founder of Alibaba Jack Ma confessed the fear of his first travel on the African continent. He can be quoted as saying “I worried a lot like anybody else". While Africa has often been portrayed as a risky region for business and investment, Ma and his entourage are now being exposed to the reality and are telling a very new and positive story about the continent.
During his second visit in Africa in 2018, the Jack Ma Foundation Netpreneur Prize has been launched. The prize which is worth $10 million is set to be won by small businesses working to grow the continent’s digital economy. Ma promised from then to come to Africa regularly and visit three four or five countries every year, pointing out that he hopes that in the following 10 to 15 years he can finish visiting the whole continent. Loyal to his words, Ma returns to Africa this year visiting Nigeria, Ghana and Togo to foster his support for the young entrepreneurs whom he said, remind him of the similar ambitions and struggles 20 years ago.
In Nigeria, he attended the Nigeria Digital Economy Summit (NDES) in Abuja. In a much broader sense, Ma explained that the aim of his team’s long flight to Nigeria is to further understand Africa, a very diverse and changing continent. It’s probably only then that they can pretend to help countries on their development goals through what he identifies as “the four Es”: e-infrastructure, e-governance, e-entrepreneurs and e-education.
Flying to Togo and then Ghana, Ma speaks out of his experience in the country as the most important trip he’s made to Africa during the past four years. He made this remarks in his welcoming address at the African Netpreneur Conference held in Accra on this Saturday 16th of November. By the end of the Grand Finale of the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), Nigerian medical logistics startup, LifeBank emerged the top startup and ‘Africa Business Hero’. Ma told the audience that Accra was unique to him because, in his own words: “I have realized that through this trip, I can really do something real for Africa, African entrepreneurs and African young people”.
Ma also addressed a very important topic after visiting Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbe. Africa is a huge market he said, very similar to that of China, yet the continent is fragmented in 55 countries, each with various and different policies and regulations for trade and investment. This is why Ma is happy about the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which launched earlier this year in July. Again, he recalled that “sometimes, it’s easy to reach an agreement, but it is difficult to implement”. He is however confident that these constraints can be overcome. If the constituent governments agree to successfully administer AfCFTA as it is defined, business leaders will find practical ways on how to connect consumers in such disparate markets.
In summary, Jack Ma’s interest for Africa is beneficial for the continent in three different ways.
• First, as a world successful and a respected business man, his trips to Africa are telling a very different, but positive story of the business environment. This move has the consequences to trigger the decision of many other potential investors and tourists who were hesitant to go to Africa.
• Second aspect is about Ma himself and the Jack Ma Foundation’s influence on the African young generation. His personal background is an inspiration to many, and his foundation, beyond the award aspect, will create a competitive entrepreneurship mindset for many African youngsters who will want to start something and to stand out.
• The third remark is Ma’s enthusiastic comments on governments’ reforms on the continent coupled with his recommendations. State leaders are highly needed in formulating and implementing incentives, they are needed to readapt the educational system, and they are as well needed to build adequate infrastructures for businesses to thrive.