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Asia’s richest man, Jack Ma (founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group), recently paid a 2 day visit to Kenya and Rwanda on his maiden visit to Africa. He came in the company of his 38 billionaire friends from Beijing, looking to fund smart and innovative African entrepreneurs.

Here are 10 major things we learnt from his visit;

  1. The Future of E-commerce is huge

Jack Ma spoke of how opportunities for trade can increase through the use of e-commerce. There is a huge potential for e-commerce and poor infrastructure represents an opportunity.

“It is time to invest in e-commerce because 80-90% of all businesses in the world in the future will be online”. He urged African youths to become “netpreneurs” as opposed to traditional entrepreneurs.

  1. Anything is Achievable if You Develop a Problem-Solving Mindset

The story of how Jack Ma started is inspiring. He applied for about 30 jobs and was rejected from all of them. He struggled to go to college as he failed entrance exam 3 times, and started Alibaba from his apartment.

“My parents did not believe I could be rich. I do not have a single gene of wealth running in my family. But I am living the dream because I was determined to solve other people’s problems”.

  1. SMEs are the backbone of the Economy

To build the Economy, build small businesses. The Government of African countries should give favourable tax policies to small businesses. These companies should be encouraged, and this will create more jobs in the Economy.

  1. Young Entrepreneurs Should Compete for the Future

If you don’t have money and you have no resources, the way you compete is not by competing with people in the present. Start by asking what are the problems Africa will meet in 5/10 years. Also find people who believe in your vision, and then build your team.

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Spend a lot of time thinking about future problems and you will end up the winner if you always think ahead.

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  1. Africa Should tap into Big Data Technology

Africa has the best opportunity for big data and should start from now to gather and use this data to develop the continent.

Europe and Africa have developed a lot from IT but the world is shifting to DT – Data technology. Information is edited by human beings but data is about human behaviour; data predicts behaviour and trends.


Data technology empowers firms and countries. The future is going to be so scary for those firms and companies that are very strong in IT. SMEs in Africa must take advantage of this shift and invest in data technology.

  1. How is the Time to Build?

Africa has many challenges business wise; logistics, trust, and infrastructure. The only way to respond to this is by building them. Start to Build now! Alibaba has been built for the past 18 years. You can build without tearing your country/region down with pessimism.

When e-Commerce started in China, the country didn’t have the best logistics systems, infrastructure, payment systems, but they responded by building them.

  1. Universities have a Big Role to Play

Universities and other tertiary institutions should inspire and nurture innovations. Some of the most successful innovators in the world quit university to pursue their innovative dream on their own after being frustrated by academic institutions.


Alibaba will work with universities in Africa and governments to train specific courses including; Internet, Artificial Intelligence, and e-Commerce.

  1. Jack Ma Has Great Faith in African Youths

“I want to show my confidence in Africa, so I start with my foundation to Africa entrepreneurship fund to support young entrepreneurs to realize their dreams”, he said.

Jack Ma said he will invest $10 million in the fund, and added ‘I believe more people will come in to support the fund and make it bigger”.

  1. The Internet is the Infrastructure of the Economy and Education

African Governments have a duty to invest in making the internet more accessible and cheaper if young people in Africa are to prosper. The young people also ought to recognise that the internet is not just the best learning tool ever created, it is also one of the best enablers of e-commerce. Use it the best way possible.

  1. The Government of other Africa countries must take a cue from Kenya send Rwanda to create the enabling environment for small businesses to thrive.

Kenya and Rwanda have invested heavily in the areas of social infrastructure. According to Ernst & Young, with Africa attractiveness program, East African countries recorded the highest share of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in 2016. Rwanda, presently has one of the easiest means of doing business on the continent, which includes 6 hours of getting the necessary papers in floating a business enterprise. Little wonder the Chinese billionaires are rushing there to do business.









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