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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Womenpreneur Digital Hub to Promote Digital Skills & More for MENA Women
The Entrepreneurship Academy of the SANAD Fund for MSME and Womenpreneur Initiative have once again teamed up to champion women’s economic equality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In March 2021, the partners launched the Womenpreneur Digital Hub, an online knowledge and resource-sharing platform that aims to expand women’s access to skills-building tools in a time when lockdowns and economic contraction have disproportionately impacted female employment in the region.
The coronavirus crisis has forced many women out of the workplace through a constellation of factors: Economically, it has taken a particularly heavy toll on sectors where women are overrepresented, such as retail, care, and food service. School and daycare closures have added further pressure, with many households placing the responsibility for at-home schooling and childcare solely upon women. As a result, although women in MENA comprise only a quarter of the region’s total workforce, they account for over half of COVID-related job losses.
The Womenpreneur Digital Hub aims to help women regain their economic footing through a three-fold approach. First, online training will be offered free of charge for hub members to hone skills that empower them on the job market, such as financial knowledge, digital literacy, and business management. High-profile speakers will provide insights into current industry trends and tips on accessing career opportunities. Second, the hub will connect users for mutual information and support, experience exchange, and valuable network-building. In this way, the platform intends to accelerate the third factor, which is to open up potential employment paths for those whose careers have been upended by the crisis.
Ines Ebrecht, Chairperson of the SANAD Technical Assistance Facility which runs the SANAD Entrepreneurship Academy, said: “Women’s employment is not only a social justice issue, it is also an economic one. Women’s ability to participate in the workforce not only provides them with financial stability and freedom on an individual level, it also enables an economy to fully open the tap on creativity, entrepreneurship, productivity, and income generation. The SANAD Entrepreneurship Academy is glad to once again join with Womenpreneur Initiative to advance gender parity as a key to prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Womenpreneur CEO and founder Sana Afouaiz said: “The pandemic provoked a major setback in gender equality and threatens to walk back decades of progress. Yet we can also pivot to grasp the opportunities. As the world entered into lockdown, the transition to online work has created a growing demand for digital jobs. The Womenpreneur Digital Hub is targeted toward equipping women to future-proof their skills and give them valuable knowledge for the employment market. Our aim is to ensure that every woman and girl in MENA has access to the tools that will help her realize her full economic potential.”
Sign up for the hub at: www.womenpreneur-digital.com
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