Few years ago, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg came to Lagos, Nigeria – one of Africa’s biggest cities. The visit saw the birth of amazing initiatives beneficial to creatives, tech communities and even to an extend the people of Lagos.
Some of the reasons for this visit to Nigeria, or say Africa – was not necessarily because of jollof rice or that he was looking for new tourist attraction. It was simply the opportunities, business potentials, tech clusters and the fact that so much of the “amazings” are beginning to come out of Africa and from Africans, especially in a big country like Nigeria.
Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, tweeted his farewell to Africa on Wednesday, but announced that he would return and temporarily move to the continent for at least three months in 2020.
Sad to be leaving the continent…for now. Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part. 🌍 pic.twitter.com/9VqgbhCXWd
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) November 27, 2019
The tech exec earlier said that he would be touring the continent in November, exploring Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. He was in Ethiopia this week.
Dorsey is famous for his world travels and eccentric lifestyle. He was in Myanmar last December, and tweeted that he did a 10-day silent vipassana meditation to celebrate his birthday.
But this month’s trip seemingly has more to do with business, as Dorsey’s tweets document his meetings with entrepreneurs across Africa.
Dorsey isn’t the only CEO fascinated by the continent’s potential. Former Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma was also in Ethiopia this week, where a government press release said Alibaba would work with it to establish a new trade platform.
Among the series of visits to Africa in 2019 by these global leaders, Jack Ma’s was picked out especially because of his focus and the kind of interactions he was making. He seemed to be focused on connecting with the leaders and government.
Jack Ma, or Ma Yun, is a Chinese business magnate, investor, politician and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. Ma is a strong proponent of an open and market-driven economy.
A former English teacher, Jack Ma cofounded Alibaba Group, one of the world’s largest e- commerce businesses.
Jack Ma turns his attention to Africa.
“I’ve been coming around over the past years in Africa, I’ve seen the drive, the passion, the human capacity and for the fact that Africa is a big economy. Like China, with only the difference that they are different countries, and sometimes it is difficult for politicians or government to sit down and agree on something. But, you see entrepreneurs? They’re business people. They often time come together and solve problems. And they will be responsible for solving Africa’s problem.” He said, on Bloomberg’s Market and Finance.
In 2019 Jack launched an initiative called The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative – a flagship entrepreneur program in Africa led by the Jack Ma Foundation. It also announced a $100 million in entrepreneurship support to Africa.
Ethiopia partnered with the Jack Ma Foundation to launched a global trade platform on Monday. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Chinese e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma inaugurated the e-WTP.
Speaking at the e-WTP launch, Jack Ma said: “This is the beginning that Africa can compete with Europe and America.”
“In the past, we believed in big; for the future we believe in small; small is beautiful,” he said, noting that e-trading platforms motivate small and medium scale enterprises.
“In the past, the world was divided into developed and developing nations; in the future this will change to whether you are e-country or not e-country,” he added.
Two other memoranda of understanding (MOU) were signed on Monday for capacity building and a comprehensive digital hub.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation Getachew Mekuria recalled that the e-WTP was Chinese e-commerce giant Ali Baba’s offshoot born in 2016 to benefit small and micro enterprises and disadvantaged groups such as women.
The new platform will facilitate the flow of goods across boundaries, e-commerce, retail and wholesale trading in addition to helping Ethiopian youths acquire training in digital skills.
In November last year, Rwanda became the first African nation to join the Alibaba-led electronic world trade platform (EWTP) initiative, following similar efforts in Southeast Asia, as the New York-listed company seeks to expand digital trade globally.
Maybe something similar would be happening in Nigeria – but no doubt, Alibaba is imprinting his footsteps and just like every entrepreneur he may be creating his own enabling environment to reap in Africa in the nearest future.
“Most people see Africa today, they say there is no e-commerce, no logistics, no payment. To me it is so similar… Africa today is like China 15-20 years ago. Because we had nothing. That is the opportunity.” -Jack Ma on entrepreneurship in Africa.
One thing worthy of note is the strategy Jack Ma is using to build a stronghold “or impact” in Africa – it is his developing relationships with leaders, government, stakeholders and the entrepreneurial communities in it self.