At an event hosted in Johannesburg on 8 August 2018, Jack Ma launched the Netpreneur Prize which seeks to support and fund Afrikan startups and entrepreneurs. The Alibaba Group founder and Exexutive Chairman also explained that the prize will be looking for entrepreneurs who are working to address Afrika’s most important challenges and further its digital economy.

Ma was delivering a keynote address at the “Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference.

Jack Ma Startups Alibaba South Africa Netpreneurs

Jack Ma addressing startups at the "Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions" conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“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 Ma.

Netpreneur Prize for Afrikan startups

The Netpreneur Prize will award $10 million to 100 Afrikan startups and entrepreneurs over the next 10 years, starting in 2019. This will be through an annual pitch competition to be hosted by the Jack Ma Foundation.

At each of the annual pitch competitions, 10 finalists will be selected from across Aftika to showcase their talent and startup ideas and compete for $1 Million in prize money. Even if some of them might not receive the $1 million funding, all startups that are finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of Afrikan business leaders.

The Netpreneur Prize will be rolled out across Afrika in partnership with Kenya's Nailab. 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, and the finalist pitch competition will 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 rise of the digital economy provides growth and opportunity to the developing world, but it is up to us to make sure no one is left behind. The work that Jack Ma and UNCTAD are doing together will help empower the emerging generation of young African business leaders to participate in and lead that growth,” said Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi.