Not content with being Asia’s richest man and the founder of one of the world’s most dominant ecommerce platforms, Jack Ma of Alibaba this week jetted into Kenya’s capital city Nairobi to start a two-day visit to East Africa along with fellow Chinese billionaires.
The party of 38 includes internet tycoon Bob Xu, Alibaba’s founding partner Lucy Peng, founder and chairman of Mengniu Dairy Niu Gensheng and real estate tycoon Huang Youlong. All of them members of the Beijing Chamber of Commerce, they will be looking to cut some multi-million dollar deals with the government and local businesspeople.
Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa and the Chinese billionaires will be scouting for opportunities in a country in which Chinese influence is growing more and more. The highlight of the trip however will be Jack Ma’s visit to the Youth Connekt Africa Summit in Rwanda where he will speak to inspire the next generation of African business leaders.
“Realizing Africa’s youth potential” conference will bring together 1,500 participants including government officials, entrepreneurs, investors, multinationals, and startups shaping the African technological ecosystem to discuss methods of using technology to drive Africa’s economic growth. “He brings to the continent a visionary approach to entrepreneurship, a thirst for learning, and a belief in a better world for young people,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
“I have discussed with Jack Ma and others that I would like us not only to grow African enterprises but also to start raising voices that a special market access waiver for produce from Africa, particularly from small business, is needed. Effort should be made to encourage young Kenyan entrepreneurs to access the Chinese market just like the Chinese are accessing local markets. Our challenge is not finding agents to import Chinese goods, I am looking for people who are willing to sell African goods to China.”
Although it’s not clear what exactly Jack Ma will speak about, it is expected that he will try to inspire the next generation of Kenyan entrepreneurs by talking about some of his personal philosophies. These include that changing the world begins with changing ourselves and highlighting the need for more opportunities for women in business. Alibaba has lots of women working at all levels of the organisation as Ma believes that a good gender balance is crucial for the smooth and efficient running of any organisation. Ma also believes that empowering others to be better than you is crucial too, something that he himself practiced when at the age of 49 he stepped down as CEO of Alibaba, arguing that if you haven’t achieved your dreams by age 50, invest in young people because they are better than you.
Ma’s visit will end on July 21.