By Gifty Arthur
Founder of the Alibaba Group and the Jack Ma Foundation, Jack Ma, has observed that with the needed innovation and encouragement, entrepreneurship will stand as game changer in Africa’s quest to develop at a very fast pace.
According to the world acclaimed entrepreneur and member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum, the continent has the means to rise from it shackles, adding it challenges can be turned around as they are not peculiar to the continent.
“Today, most of the entrepreneurs in Africa, like what we went through years ago, no paper, no money, no technology, and the appetite to travel to developed places is unbelievable but they don’t wait, they create conditions and I think most of the problems, difficulties are what most of the other people in the other parts of the world also have them”, he said.
First of its kind, the Foundation hosted the inaugural full-day Africa Netpreneur Summit last Friday in Accra for Africans and global entrepreneurs, investors, educators, and leaders, to discuss how best to push entrepreneurship and the digital economy across the Continent.
Several world leaders and dignitaries including former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, Ban Ki-moon, legendary Chinese actor Jet Li, supermodel Naomi Campbell all assembled in the national capital for the programme..
Speaking at the Africa Netpreneur Summit as part of the Africa’s Business Heroes programme at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) Jack Ma, told the story of Alibaba saying Africa like China, many years ago, did not believe in what he set out to do.
But said, with determination and foresight, he was able to create and nurture his dream in what has famously become known as the Alibaba Group, ranked as one of the ten top companies in the world.
He said, the passion, energy and confidence, says in Africans, is enough to wither every storm for greater endevours.
“Not everyone could become an entrepreneur but everybody must endeavour to have entrepreneurial skills”, he noted.
Jack Ma said, the challenges facing the continent hindering development, are what must challenge and spur many especially the youth, to take the world by storm by becoming innovative entrepreneurs, to solve these challenges as others have done. He said it was possible for Africa to take it own destiny into it hands and use entrepreneurial skills as a major means for this development.
“Africa never lacks talents, never lacks resources and never lacks opportunities.”
“What is needed is people to innovate and I think Africa should change because of entrepreneurs. Let’s start to help, let’s start to inspire and let’s start to empower the start-up spirit and entrepreneurship…,” he added.
Citing the usual excuse of lack funds and support to start something on their own, Mr Ma said an able and willing entrepreneur, must not wait for anyone rather; must search, explore and look for opportunities to make it own their own.
By so doing, the society they come from will respect them and that society will also progress. “Good entrepreneurs solve the problems of society and search for opportunities. They solve problems”, he said.
Touching on the Africa’s Business Heroes awards programme which later in the night awarded some ten young Africans, grants to inject into their businesses, Jack Ma said, his foundation, was proud to make the intervention of some one million dollars (US$1 million), to these business owners whom he is convinced will create more heroes out of the grant. Finalists were picked from Ghana Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroun, Democratic Republic of Congo among others.
President Akufo-Addo who presented cash amount to five finalists said it is time for Africa to take entrepreneurship seriously and make the best out of it adding, the conference serves as a good platform to promote this. He commended Jack Ma for choosing and making Ghana the first place to launch the initiative and making the concerns of Africa youth his priority by instituting awards scheme. He further touched on the impotence of entrepreneurs saying big economics depended on them.
“The truth is that successful economies depend on entrepreneurs to run successful businesses. We need to push vigorously the culture of entrepreneurship so we can grow our economies to become prosperous.
It was time to take entrepreneurship seriously and there could not be a better forum to demonstrate that than the Netpreueur forum, he said.
Adding “Africa today has a unique opportunity engendered by the globalisation of technology to achieve quality development gains by leveraging technology. The Netpreneur Summit seeks to empower Africa entrepreneurs to scale up the development.”
He said, through the establishment of the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) to provide business development services, support incubators and funding for young businesses, a great number of beneficiaries were making progress. According to the President economy was built on entrepreneurship.
Touting some of the gains and support granted by his administration the President said the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) was one key initiative being used to promote entrepreneurial drive.
He said a seed capital of ten million has helped assisted some 19 thousand youth with businesses. Aside this gesture by Jack Ma being in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it also help the old culture of young Africans dangerously crossing the Mediterranean Seas for greener pastures abroad. The 8th UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon started his speech by celebrating both Jack Ma, the finalists and Africans as a whole.
He said good entrepreneurs are those who tried on their own but failed and never gave up till they succeeded. “Failure can be seen as another opportunity to succeed”. Mr Moon who was in the country with his wife said, no country can develop by itself hence the global agenda and the initiative by Jack Ma.
He urged everyone to be part of the new movement of entrepreneurship adding partnership between governments, the private sector, civil society and others are the way to go.
The Africa Netpreneurs Initiative (ANPI) is a 10-year philanthropic programme by the Jack Ma Foundation, which aims to provide to identify, spotlight and support African entrepreneur heroes across the continent.
The initiate aims to share their stories to inspire Africa continent and beyond. The goal of the Prize is to identify 100 African “business heroes” who are building a more-suitable and inclusive future to help leade Africa to the next stage of development.