Alibaba’s Jack Ma Launches African Young Entrepreneurs Fund

Updated on 25 July 2017

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Today's Top Entrepreneurship and Business Stories (25 July)

Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma announced the creation of a US$10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund, during the Youth Connekt Africa Summit co-hosted by UNCTAD and the Government of Rwanda.

“I want that fund supporting African online businesses,” said Ma, who is Special Adviser to UNCTAD for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business.

“The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval,” he said, adding that he was poised to hire staff for the fund, set to begin operations this year.

Ma said that he would also work with UNCTAD help bring 200 budding African businesspeople to his homeland China to learn from Alibaba hands on.

“I want them to go to China, meeting our people, seeing all the things we have been doing, all the great ideas China has,” he said.

“They know what they want. And when they know what they want, we can support it,” he added.

In addition, Ma said that he planned to roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.

Ma, who is on his first visit to Africa, also visited Kenya on Thursday. He has been sharing his experience of having built his company, founded in 1999, into a global e-commerce giant valued at more than US$231 billion, and how he met the string of challenges that he faced along the way.

The Youth Connekt Africa Summit, held in Kigali, brought together more than 1,500 participants from government, entrepreneurial and investor communities, multinationals, and startups shaping the African technological ecosystem. Unlocking Africa’s e-commerce is a key priority for UNCTAD, given the potential of online trade to power development. (via APO)

SA To Probe Data Costs As a Hindrance To Small Business – Gigaba

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Monday said the South African government wanted to probe the cost of data and its limitations to doing business in the country, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“We believe that further reforms in the telecommunications sector would be supportive of entrepreneurs and small businesses through reduction of costs to do business,” Gigaba said in Pretoria.

“Another key initiative is to direct the Competition Commission to investigate data prices. We are also taking steps to commence with the roll-out of the broadband programme. These would further reduce the cost of doing business, in line with our efforts to grow SMMEs.”

Gigaba made the remarks alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) secretary-general Angel Gurría who was presenting the latest OECD economic survey of South Africa at the National Treasury.

Gigaba said South Africa was of a strong belief that its own development was intrinsically linked to that of fellow African states.

“The government recognises that the sustainable South African economic growth is intricately linked to the growth of the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) region. Slow growth and a rise in unemployment contribute to a decline in consumer demand,” said Gigaba. (via African News Agency)

Leading Tech VC Company Grotech Rebrands as Kalon Venture Partners Ahead of Three Investments

Section 12J Venture Capital company, Grotech has rebranded as Kalon Venture Partners.  For the last 18 months, the business did extensive screening of hundreds of companies and three new deals are imminent, with a number of other high growth disruptive digital technology companies in the investment pipeline.

The first of the three deals is a global leader in influencer marketing software, and the first of its kind built in Africa, to provide and supply a transactional exchange for sponsored content. Influencer marketing is rated as the fastest growing online customer acquisition channel beating paid and organic search as well as email marketing. The company is well positioned to grow internationally and has shown significant traction both locally and offshore.

The second company is a digital marketplace that enables anyone to purchase and lease solar panels to commercial scale solar energy projects in emerging economies. The solution utilises an intelligently integrated digital currency payment system and automated blockchain smart contracts that enables transparent and secure lease rental payment streams to globally distributed solar panel owners. The company is domiciled in Delaware, USA, and Kalon will be co-investing with a Silicon Valley based venture capital company with extensive cryptocurrency experience. The company plans to take advantage of an initial coin offering linked to the blockchain to raise further operational funds.

The third investment is SA’s leading cashback coupon app that gives shoppers cash back on their favourite products, wherever they shop, just by snapping a photo of their till slip. In the last 18 months more than 150 000 ‘happy snappers’ have earned over R3.5 million in cashback savings simply by taking a till slip selfie. The company focuses on FMCG brands and retailers and is a marketing and promotion tool to engage today’s mobile savvy shoppers. Kalon is co-investing with one of the largest retail technology and activation companies in Africa. It has a presence on five continents in more than 50 countries and provides services to over 500 000 retailers. The strategy is to launch the product into many countries across the globe.

Clive Butkow, CEO of Kalon explains, “The Kalon board decided to rebrand to better reflect the vision of being the pre-eminent digital technology venture capital company in Africa by investing in and growing entrepreneurs who solve African and global problems.”

“The revised Kalon mission is to create as much non-financial as financial value, by investing smart capital, supported by smart interventions resulting in enhanced returns for both investors and entrepreneurs.”

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