Alibaba’s Jack Ma launches $10m Netpreneur Prize for African entrepreneurs

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has established a new contest that will see African entrepreneurs compete for $10 million in funding, with the aim of supporting businesses that are growing the continent’s nascent digital economy.

The Netpreneur Prize is being created with the aim of supporting and funding African entrepreneurs working to address the continent’s most important challenges and further its digital economy through local entrepreneurship.

Starting in 2019, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with 10 finalists selected from across the continent to showcase their business ideas and compete for US$1 million in prize money.

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.

“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 South Africa this week.

While the competition will be open to entrepreneurs in all industries, the prize will focus on internet-led businesses that help advance technology and innovation in Africa. Applicants must be African nationals leading mission-driven organizations.

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.

Ma has been busy in Africa over the past two years.  In 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, which has so far seen three cohorts of international entrepreneurs – including from Africa – travel to China to participate in the fellowship.

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