Alibaba Group and the World Economic Forum have widened their search for partners to combat widespread issues such as unemployment in Africa, calling again for governments, the private sector and civil society to take up the cause.
Alibaba, the WEF and five other founding members in September launched the Africa Growth Platform to help 100 million startups and SMEs in Africa scale their business operations by 2025. The underlying goal is to create jobs for the two-thirds of Africa’s 420 million young people who are currently out of work. A.T. Kearney, Dalberg Group, Export Trade Group, the Africa Development Foundation and Zenith Bank are the other founding members.
This year, as global thought leaders gathered for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they have created the Davos Friends of AGP to draw still more partners to the initiative, which aims to increase access to funding and create better business environments for Africa’s startups. So far, the presidents of Botswana and Ghana have agreed to join as member countries of the AGP.
“The AGP recognizes that one of the most compelling ways to create new economic opportunities and support Africa’s digital transformation is to invest in the capacity building and empowerment of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Brian Wong, vice president of global initiatives for Alibaba Group, at a press conference on Tuesday in Davos.
WATCH: Alibaba’s Brian Wong explains the Friends of AGP initiative
The AGP aims to enhance funding prospects for young African entrepreneurs in three ways. Firstly, the platform will work with governments to bring about policy reforms that will stimulate and accelerate business growth. Secondly, it will work to create a diverse community of investors as a way to bring together resources to facilitate future funding. Finally, the AGP seeks to build a startup community itself to foster collaboration and idea sharing.
To support the AGP’s 2025 goals, Alibaba has been helping to set up the framework of the initiative while promoting partnership opportunities to foster the growth of a digital economy in Africa. Alibaba will also share lessons learned from China, including case studies on building digital infrastructure and growing e-commerce in rural areas, as well as leverage its training programs to teach young entrepreneurs, SMEs, policy makers, educators and universities in Africa about e-commerce. To date, 119 entrepreneurs from 18 African countries have participated in Alibaba’s eFounder Fellowship program, which was launched by Jack Ma while serving as UNCTAD Special Adviser for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Twenty-two students from Rwanda have also started their four-year undergraduate-level course on international business and cross-border e-commerce in Hangzhou last September.
Since last September, AGP has hosted a workshop in Nairobi, in December, for fintech entrepreneurs to meet with key stakeholders and executives in the central bank of Kenya. And in Davos this week, the group met with African heads of state, business leaders and other stakeholders to advocate for infrastructure investment, such as for steady water and electricity supply, and training from academia.
For Alibaba, the launch of the Davos Friends of AGP community is another step toward building a more-inclusive business landscape that serves society as a whole, Wong said.
“We are honored to serve as a founding member of the AGP as we work to enhance global cooperation among all stakeholders and to do our part to inspire, train and support entrepreneurs in Africa in order to achieve more inclusive growth,” he said.