At 2:30pm on Friday, 21st July, Jack Ma made an entrance into a fully packed hall at the Kigali convention centre. He was flanked by Asian comrades dressed in perfectly straightened suits, carrying bags and tech savvy gadgets. These Asian comrades, I later found out were Chinese Billionaires too(Your association circle defines who you are). This was at the just concluded #YouthConnektAfrica summit and the wait to listen to Jack Ma was a session most delegates had anticipated.
His opening statement on African soil was; I have not come to Africa to sell Chinese products, there are already quite a lot of them here. I come to empower African entrepreneurs to create their own Alibaba platform.
During the “Spotlight with Jack Ma” session which was moderated by Julie Gichuru, Jack Ma spoke prudently about businesses, career decisions as well as youths being the engine that will drive Africa towards globalization to realize its entrepreneurial potential.
Here are a few things I managed jot down as he spoke to us during the session.
If you are hiring, Hire a person that is more intelligent than you are. Hire the person you think would be your employer in 5 years.
Have a global vision and do it the local way. Think big and think the future.
We don’t own our policies; other people’s policies own us.
We cannot waste the lessons learned the hard way. Look out for stories on failure, there is something to learn from them.
Conquer the boarders. We are not different. We shouldn’t let boarders limit us from doing business
Today is difficult, tomorrow is more difficult but the day after is more beautiful
Jack Ma philosophy: In business, first comes the Customers, second the employees, and third are the shareholders. When the first two are happy, shareholders are happy too. Spend most of your time on your customers and not your competitors. Customers help advertise your business for you that it helps you beat your competitors.
Focus on the 3Qs that lead to success:
- IQ=Smart=Know what you want,
- EQ=Wise=Know what you don’t want
- LQ=Love=Be passionate
The third world war should be the war against poverty and disease
Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”
If you want to be big company, solve big problems. if you want to be small company, solve small problems.
The difference between young people and old people is this; Young people think about tomorrow while old people are always thinking about yesterday.
If you want to change the world, change yourself first. This is more important and easier.
Please notice that everything that whatever comes out from his abundant speech is a quote..
“Alibaba’s greatest success is hinged on youths and women. Youths have hope and eagerly take on challenges whereas the women tend to think about others more than they think about themselves. If you empower these two groups of people, then you will be successful.” Jack Ma emphasized
Jack Ma on whether he intends to have Alibaba in Africa said “We cannot bring Alibaba to Africa; Africa should build its own Alibaba. I see huge potential in Africa’s youths, No matter how big your vision is, you have to start small”.
“Africa has to start thinking of Globalization, selling things to other African countries, the future of E-commerce in Africa is much bigger than in Europe, bigger than in America, also don’t wait for government to build infrastructure before you start, If you wait for everything to be okay before you start, that means the opportunities are already gone.” he continued
When the plenary session on which Jack Ma appeared with Rwandan President H.E Paul Kagame, UNCTAD Secretary General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi came to a close, there was chance for journalists and media to have a session with the Alibaba group boss and Dr Mukhisa Kituyi. Here is where I had a mini-interview with Ma..
Me: You have visited Rwanda and Kenya and you mentioned earlier that you intend to invest in the African continent; is two countries out of 52, sample space enough for you?
Jack Ma: Two countries are not enough. This trip is a learning trip. I visited Kenya and Rwanda because of the development and entrepreneurial growth taking place in those two countries. I intend to have my team come back to do a pilot study as well as work closely with our contacts in Africa.
Me: What is the difference between Information technology and Digital technology? Aren’t these phenomena replacing manual labor?
Jack Ma: The world is transforming from IT(Information technology) to Digital technology. The more we embrace digital technology and not feel like it is taking away our jobs, the more accomplished work we can do. And in the end, create new jobs as well.
Me: What is your take on Entrepreneurship in Africa?
Jack Ma: I am impressed by the passion of entrepreneurship in Africa. I have traveled across the world and most people I have met are either scared for or worried about the future. However, the people in Africa have confidence in the future. Africans have passion and ideas.
Some of the projects Jack Ma announced to start in Africa.
*Under project number one – 200 African young entrepreneurs are to work at Alibaba headquarters with the aim of gaining experience in fields including; e-commerce, Artificial intelligence and Internet to develop their businesses when they return to Africa
**The Second Project – Alibaba group will work with Universities in Africa and governments to train specific courses including; Internet, Artificial intelligence, and e-commerce.
***Third Project — will be a partnership between Alibaba and Paradise Foundation of china – this project will deal with promoting and supporting Environmental conservation efforts in Africa especially protecting elephants and other precious animals. A prize will be given to 50 rangers for the next ten years to thank them for their tireless efforts in conservation.
****Fourth project, Jack Ma pledged to invest in youth to show his confidence in Africa. He will invest $10 million in the African Entrepreneurship fund to support young entrepreneurs realize their dreams.
What will baffle you about Jack ma; Asia’s richest man.
- He was rejected at Havard university for 10 times.
- When KFC first came to China, 24 job applications were submitted. 23 people got jobs apart from him.
- He learned English by going to a local hotel that hosted tourists every day so that he could meet people. He also bought a radio so that he could listen to the English broadcast.
- After he graduated, he got a job as an English teacher, making about $12(UGX. 43,200) a month at a local university.
- He first shared the idea about Alibaba group with 16 people in his sitting room. Jack Ma told everyone to spare all the money they had and invest it in the idea he shared with them. He told them the project was likely to fail, but if they succeeded, the rewards would be unimaginable.
- According to Forbes, Jack Ma’s net worth is 35.4 billion USD( I honestly will not calculate this into UGX.)