Jack Ma’s Netpreneur Prize

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma announced the launch of the US$10 million Netpreneur Prize, aimed at empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs. The Netpreneur Prize aims at supporting and funding African entrepreneurs working to address the continent’s most important challenges and further its digital economy through local entrepreneurship.  A full press report from Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Business School can be found here.

Netpreneurs: The rise of africa digital lions
Netpreneurs: The rise of africa digital lions

While the competition will be open to entrepreneurs in all industries, founders of businesses that are internet-driven are particularly encouraged to apply, given the open and inclusive impact technology can have on local economies. The Prize will see US$10 million will be distributed to 100 entrepreneurs over the next 10 years. There will be a total of 10 finalists who will be eligible for this funding. All 10 finalists will receive grant funding 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. The 10 finalists selected from across the continent to showcase their business ideas and compete for US$1 million in prize money from Jack Ma Foundation. Please note that Applicants must be African nationals.

Jack Ma decided to create the prize after his first trip to Africa in July 2017 when he was inspired by the energy and entrepreneurial potential of the young people he met. 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. Applicants must be African nationals leading mission-driven organizations. The finalists will be selected by a team of judges from five regions representing the entire continent. The program will be offered across the continent through lead continental partner, Nailab, and other regional hub partners.

Courtesy: Netpreneurs Prize Africa Website
Courtesy: Netpreneurs Prize Africa Website

Timeline and process flow

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.

“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,” Ma said, announcing the Prize at the Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions conference in Johannesburg this week.

Jack Ma Holding announcing Netpreneurs program for Africa
Jack Ma Holding announcing Netpreneurs program for Africa

Jack Ma’s interest in African startup ecosystem

African startup ecosystem has witnessed a great deal of interest from Jack Ma over the past one year. In July 2017, he launched the US$10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund, to support online entrepreneurs; while the Alibaba Business School and UNCTAD also launched the eFounders Fellowship Initiative, an initiative where United Nations led UNCTAD teamed up with Alibaba Group to support 1000 entrepreneurs in developing countries to become catalysts for the digital transformation in their home countries. Jack Ma has openly stated that “Africa is the future”. You can listen to this talk where he speaks about untapped market potential in Africa.

Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary General and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens, said, “With the rapid development of the global digital economy and the availability of technology, the next century belongs to Africa. I am excited to join the advisory board of the Africa Netpreneur Prize. Through this prize, we aim to support African entrepreneurs to build a more inclusive and prosperous Africa and dramatically shape the future prospects of the continent for the better.”

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