Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


Alibaba Founder Launches $10M African Entrepreneur Fund

Article Image
Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has launched the Netpreneur Prize, which will allocate a total of US$10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs during the course of the next ten years.

The prize, which will "support and fund African entrepreneurs who are working to address Africa's most important challenges and further its digital economy through local entrepreneurship," according to a press release issued by the Foundation, was officially launched on August 8 at the "Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa's Digital Lions" conference in Johannesburg.

Starting next year, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with ten finalists selected to "showcase their talent and business ideas and compete for $1 Million in prize money." All ten finalists will receive grant funding as well as "access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community's shared expertise, best practices and resources."

Applications can be made starting January 15, 2019, and the deadline for submitting applications is April 15. There will then be a process of selecting regional shortlists: Five regional events to choose the ten finalists will take place in July and August 2019. The "Grand Prize Event" will be held at some time in the latter months of next year. The process will be managed by business incubator Nailab and other regional partners.

Jack Ma outlines the details of the Netpreneur prize at the 'Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa's Digital Lions' conference in Johannesburg.
Jack Ma outlines the details of the Netpreneur prize at the 'Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa's Digital Lions' conference in Johannesburg.

Applicants must be "young entrepreneurs," their business must be registered in the country of operation in Africa, and the company's founders must be "African nationals from any of the 54 African countries." While the competition will be "open to entrepreneurs in all industries, Mr. Ma expects many of the applicants to be founders of businesses that are internet-driven given the open and inclusive impact technology can have on local economies."

Ma stated: "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."

The Netpreneur Prize is the second initiative launched by Ma to support African entrepreneurs. Last year, Alibaba Business School and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) announced the eFounders Fellowship Initiative, a program that will train 1,000 entrepreneurs from emerging markets, 200 of whom will come from Africa, with the purpose of building a community of young entrepreneurs committed to creating digital platforms to build more inclusive economies. This program supports the aims of the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring no one is left behind in the digital economy. To date, 52 African entrepreneurs have participated in this two-week fellowship at Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Participants make a two-year commitment to improving society through their businesses.

According to the press release, since completing the program, "many graduates have made significant progress with their businesses and become catalysts for digital transformation in their home countries, including raising rounds of investment as well as launching their own training programs."

Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: South Africa's Botlhale AI

Connecting Africa's hot startup this month is South Africa's Botlhale AI, which creates conversational AI tools for African languages while helping businesses engage customers in languages they understand and trust.


SA's Teraco to power data centers with 120MW solar plant

Teraco, the vendor-neutral data center provider, is planning the construction of a 120 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) energy facility in the Free State province of South Africa.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Africa Tech Perspectives


Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.


The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: January 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in January 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included a $200 million fintech deal between MTN and Mastercard as well as 5G network trials by Telecom Egypt – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: September 2023

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in September 2023 in the Middle East and Africa included more 5G spectrum licenses, vendor and operator strategies, and partnerships – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up
Tag id test-002