The prize will award $1 million a year for the next 10 years to support the small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises that are growing the continent’s nascent digital economy.
WATCH: Jack Ma offers advice, inspiration to African entrepreneurs
The Jack Ma Foundation and its continental partner, entrepreneur accelerator Nailab, will host an annual pitch competition, with all 10 finalists receiving grant funding and access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders for mentorship and other resources.
“By 2030, we hope to identify and shine a spotlight on 100 African entrepreneur heroes who will inspire the continent. From day one, our approach has been community-based and focused on inclusiveness; to be truly for Africans and by Africans,” said Beth Yu, executive secretary-general at the Jack Ma Foundation.
The competition is open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries, all industry sectors are eligible, and the Jack Ma Foundation and Nailab said they strongly encourage young people and female entrepreneurs to apply. The following are key activities and dates until a winner is announced in November:
- Applications Launch: March 27
- Deadline for applications: June 30
- Announcement of the top 50 regional finalists: August 2019
- Announcement of the final 10 finalists: October 2019
For more information, potential applicants can go here.
The prize was announced last August at the “Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference in Johannesburg. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who was named to the advisory board of the Netpreneur Prize, said that with the rapid development of the global digital economy and the availability of technology, “the next century belongs to Africa.”
“Through this prize, we aim to support African entrepreneurs to build a more-inclusive and prosperous Africa and dramatically shape the future prospects of the continent for the better,” Ban said.
The Netpreneur Prize is the latest initiative by Ma to foster and develop entrepreneurial talent in Africa. He launched the eFounders Fellowship after his visit to the continent in 2017, with the goal of empowering 1,000 entrepreneurs from developing countries, 200 of whom would hail from Africa. To date, 52 African entrepreneurs have participated in a two-week fellowship at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, during which participants make a two-year commitment to improve society through their businesses.