Alibaba exec, Brian Wong, explains the company's plans for Africa


After training their first cohort 24 Afrikan starts as part of the eFounder Fellowship training program, Alibaba launched another initiative aimed at enhancing new Afrikan technologies.

It was named Netpreneur Prize, the program will invest at least $ 1 million a year in Afrikan start-ups for 10 years from 2019.

The Netpreneur Prize was announced and launched in Johannesburg, South Africa by Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

He explained that the prize will look for entrepreneurs working to address Africa's most important challenges and its digital economy.

"As a businesswoman, I understand the importance of support over the first few days, and this demonstrates our support for the next generation of young entrepreneurs in Africa that are paving the way for a better future and imparting a positive change to their communities. inspired and encouraged by these entrepreneurs who, together, will help build a sustainable and inclusive economy for Africa and for the world, "said Ma.

Alibaba's African strategy and the Netpreneurs award

Given the recent Alibaba invasions in Africa, Ma visited Kenya and Rwanda in 2017, where the EFounders Fellowship for start-ups began.

I wanted to know what Alibaba had planned to do business in various Afrikan countries. To figure out some of these, I arrived Brian A. Wong, Vice President of Global Initiatives, Alibaba Group.

Brian A. Wong, Vice President of Global Initiatives, Alibaba Group.

Wong is probably the most relevant person to talk about it, as he was with the Internet giant from his early days working with Ma from one apartment to what he is today, a multi-billion dollar business.

iAfrikan: In 2018 you ran the second Fellows eFounders program for the newly formed Afrikan companies. What are some of the lessons from last year's program that were used this year?

Brian Wong: The program is becoming more and more powerful with each class of participants as old graduates return together to share progress, lessons and connect with their home communities to inspire others to pursue entrepreneurship in e-commerce.

Since the launch of the program, we have also teamed up with local VCs and incubators to increase the coverage of our business consultants' network and help them continue to grow, making the eFounders network even more powerful.

If you compared, what would you say that the differences (positive and negative) are among the Afrikan start-ups you have been working with during the program compared to other parts of the world?

EFounders Fellowship has already offered training to entrepreneurs with business activities based in Africa, Southeast Asia and Pakistan.

We are committed to developing the network and offering the lesson to other developing and emerging countries and regions. Each region has its own challenges, barriers and opportunities for entrepreneurship.

But when Jack made his first trip to Africa in July 2017, he was inspired by the energy and entrepreneurship he saw across the continent.

When he first set up Alibaba in 1999, the company faced many of the same obstacles and the lack of infrastructure currently faced by businessmen in Africa. This makes Alibaba the ideal to share her experience and the lessons she has learned with entrepreneurs wishing to build technology companies in Africa.

Alibaba, through Jack Ma and in partnership with UNCTAD, has launched several initiatives for entrepreneurs in Africa, what is the biggest strategy for Africa in terms of Alibaba?

We hope to inspire and train Afrikan's next generation of digital pioneers. The eFounders program, in cooperation with UNCTAD, is a natural extension of Alibaba's mission, but it is not related to any business plan in Africa.

EFounders Fellowship is in line with Alibaba's mission to enable small businesses and business people from around the world and is an important component in fulfilling a commitment made by Jack to help 1,000 entrepreneurs develop nations within the next five years – those originating from Afrikan countries.

Jack felt that by bringing new entrepreneurs from Africa and elsewhere to learn how many of these barriers had been overtaken in China would spark new ideas and inspire participants to think about how they could succeed.

Alibaba Business School also works with universities and training institutions to focus on training and equipping people with the skills needed to succeed in e-commerce in the digital economy. In August, the first GET in Africa was created with a weekly lesson covering topics from the digital economy.

Will we see that Alibaba will acquire or work with some of the Afrikan's newcomers with whom he collaborated?

It is likely that some of the businesses could become part of the Alibaba ecosystem in the future. However, this is by no means the expected result or intent. This is a charity program that is not related to the Alibaba Group's activities.

Can you tell us a bit more about the recently launched Netpreneur Award?

The Netpreneur Award is Jack's latest initiative to enhance and develop African business talent. With the award, Jack hopes to inspire and encourage young people to see entrepreneurship as a career path.

The prize is intended to support and fund Afrikan entrepreneurs working to address Africa's major challenges and its further digital economy through local entrepreneurship.

The program will award $ 10 million to 100 Afrikan entrepreneurs over the next 10 years. Beginning in 2019, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual competition, with ten finalists selected from across the continent to present their talent and business ideas and compete for a $ 1 million prize pool.

Candidates must be Afrikan nationals who lead organizations with missions and the 10 finalists will be selected by a panel of judges from five regions representing the whole continent.

All ten finalists will receive grants, as well as access to the Afrikan community from Netpreneur to harness the common know-how, best practices and community resources.

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