Alibaba Group founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma has launched a $10 million ‘Netpreneur’ Prize for African entrepreneurs. He made this announcement at the “Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference held in South Africa yesterday.
The money will be donated through his Jack Ma Foundation to support entrepreneurs working to address Africa’s most important challenges. It will focus on small business growth, grassroots innovation, and women founders – and will award US$10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years.
Starting in 2019, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with ten finalists selected from across the continent. The selected participants will showcase their talent and business ideas and compete for US$1 Million in prize money. All ten finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation. They will also get access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices, and resources.
“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,” said Jack Ma.
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. Applications for the first pitch competition will be open from January 2019 until April 2019. The finalist pitch competition will then be held and broadcast across Africa in the second half of 2019. The program will be offered across the continent through lead continental partner, Nailab, and other regional hub partners.
The Netpreneur Prize is the second initiative launched by Jack Ma to support African entrepreneurs. Last year, Alibaba Business School and UNCTAD announced the eFounders Fellowship Initiative, a program that will train 1,000 entrepreneurs from emerging markets. 200 of the entrepreneurs will come from Africa, with the purpose of building a community of young entrepreneurs committed to creating digital platforms to build more inclusive economies.
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.