Alibaba Founder Jack Ma to Empower African Entrepreneurs Through Education

Alibaba Group founder, Jack Ma, announced at the 19th annual Forbes Global CEO Conference that he is looking to empower entrepreneurs in Africa to help them drive change in the world’s second largest continent.

“Entrepreneurs are the most important element to promote society,” said Ma on October 15 in Singapore during a one-on-one dialogue with Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media.

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“In Africa, we need three Es: E-government, to make the government transparent; entrepreneurs, make them heroes; and education, make the people know what they want and what they don’t want,” he said. “The thing is that entrepreneurship in Africa is so different … Most entrepreneurs in our countries, they always want to [start an] enterprise, they want to go for IPO. These people in Africa, they want to change Africa. They want to change their lives.”

The business tycoon was awarded a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his commitment to advocating entrepreneurship on a global scale and helping a generation succeed through the Internet. Ma is also the world’s first Internet industry leader to win the award in 13 years.

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In November last year, Rwanda became the first African nation to join the Alibaba-led electronic world trade platform (EWTP) initiative. As part of that initiative, Alibaba pledged to help small and medium-sized enterprises in Rwanda sell their products, such as coffee beans, on its online marketplaces.

Last month, Jack Ma officially stepped down as group chairman of Alibaba, handing over the position to the company CEO Daniel Zhang. The retired tycoon said he would be spending more time and energy on education, philanthropy and environmental protection.