JACK MA’S $10 MILLION PRIZE FOR AFRICAN STARTUPS: Any person remotely business-minded knows that the name Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group, is instantly synonymous with entrepreneurial royalty. He’s living proof that starting, scaling and sustaining a business is one of – if not the – toughest jobs in the world. The journey is often riddled with frustrations, challenges and failures. And that’s before you’ve even cashed your first pay cheque.

Therefore, I reckon Ma created a fantastic philanthropic initiative called the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) worth US$10 million, which focuses on supporting the continent’s startups.


Photo (Disrupt Africa): Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

To put Ma a little more into perspective, in his book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Galloway, an entrepreneur and professor at NYU Stern, provides a perceptive analysis of the four-horse race to become the first trillion-dollar company (if memory serves, I think Apple did hit it sometime last year, but then dropped off again). With a casually incisive style, he uncovers how each of these companies has deployed iconic leadership, technology, fearless innovation, and lightning execution. Galloway positions Alibaba among a few other companies as the possible fifth in the race. The history of Jack Ma’s perseverance and dogged, never-say-die attitude which led him to success is truly remarkable, starting with shortcomings in school to a barrage of rejected job applications, which I’m sure, many of us probably also faced, yet perhaps lacked his entrepreneurial tenacity.

Now, research into the entrepreneurial space questions the validity of necessity- driven entrepreneurs. But the fact is that they exist and most times if these entrepreneurs couple a deeper understanding and a bigger picture vision of the opportunity they are pursuing, is what the world needs more of – more Jack Ma’s. I bet the world needs both necessity and opportunity driven entrepreneurs. I must acknowledge that I argued differently in my 2013 MBA thesis but knowledge and experience over the past six years has advanced my current views.

Every year for the next ten years, the ANPI will host a pitching competition across Africa, after which ten finalists will compete for US$1 million in prize money. The Initiative aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future. The ANPI has banded together a strong ecosystem of players to support both technology-driven and traditional businesses.


The ANPI Structure

The ANPI is led by the Jack Ma Foundation in partnership with:

Nailab – an East African accelerator in Kenya and a lead partner to the ANPI

NINE – a West African partner and the largest incubator network in Nigeria

RiseUp – a North Africa partner and a platform that connects startups with resources

22 on Sloane – a Southern African partner and the largest startup campus in Africa

The Advisory board of the ANPI includes Jack Ma, Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Jack Ma Foundation (JMF) is a charitable organisation founded in 2014. The foundation aims to promote human development in harmony with both society and the environment, while

its mission is to work towards a world of bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities and more open thinking.

By 2030, the ANPI hopes to identify and shine a spotlight on 100 African entrepreneur heroes who will inspire the continent. From day one, its approach has been community-based and focused on inclusiveness; to be truly for Africans and by Africans.

ANPI Core Application Criteria

  1. Open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries
  2. Open to all industry sectors
  3. The youth and women entrepreneurs are strongly encouraged to apply

ANPI Key Activities and Dates

  1. Applications Launch: 27th March 2019
  2. Deadline for applications: 30th June 2019
  3. Announcement of the top 50 regional finalists: August 2019
  4. Announcement of the final 10 finalists: October 2019
  5. Grand Finale pitch event: November 2019

22 on Sloane is proud to be launching the Southern African prize Initiative at its campus on Wednesday 27th March 2019 at 12h30. To attend the launch, please visit: https://anpi.22onsloane.co

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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