During the recently held YouthConnekt Africa Summit co-hosted by the Government of Rwanda and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, announced the creation of a $10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund. The summit coincidentally was his first visit to Africa.
He stated that he was ready to hire staff and begin operations this year (2017). “I want that fund supporting African online businesses… The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval,” he said, emphasizing on the availability of funds and his commitment to make this work.
Jack Ma also indicated that he intended to work hand in hand with UNCTAD to help bring 200 up and coming young entrepreneurs to his homeland of China to give them the opportunity to learn from Alibaba hands on; to learn their way of thinking and doing things. “I want them to go to China, meeting our people, seeing all the things we have been doing, all the great ideas China has,” he said.
He also touched on the need for technology in our world today saying, “Not being connected to the Internet today is worse than not having electricity 100 years ago…,” he said. “I think e-Commerce, Internet, Big Data is the future. You can never stop it. You like it or don’t like it. But you will never stop it.” In this light, he also announced an intended collaboration with African universities to teach “Internet Technology, Artificial Intelligence and e-Commerce” within the institutions.
YouthConnekt is said to be as a result of a successful initiative launched in 2012 by the Rwandan government with United Nations Development Program (UNDP). According to YouthConnekt, in partnership with “UNCTAD and UNDP, the Government of Rwanda is hosting the inaugural YouthConnekt Africa Summit to initiate the rollout of the program across the continent. It is designed to realize Africa’s demographic dividend by combining elements of skills development, entrepreneurship, access to jobs and finance, awareness raising on issues related to youth development, and promotion of youth citizenship and leadership to foster solidarity, engaging youth in delivering SDGs.”
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