Jack Ma, China’s richest man and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, recently visited East Africa on a mission to inspire young African entrepreneurs.
Arriving in Kenya Wednesday evening ahead of a two-day visit, Ma met with Kenyan business leaders and held public speaking engagements at the University of Nairobi.
According to Business Daily, Ma, who is worth an estimated $30 billion (Forbes), was accompanied on the trip by a large delegation of super-rich Chinese businessmen.
The visit was Ma’s first trip to Africa.
In his address to a packed auditorium at the University of Nairobi, Ma told the audience that the secret to successful entrepreneurship could be found in empowering others.
“[By] empowering others, you are empowering yourself, and you are empowering your platform,” Ma said.
Watch Ma’s full address here:
Ma focused his address on opening markets for small businesses and encouraging the culture of enterprise in Africa.
Ma is the quintessential self-made billionaire who started out with no money and no connections.
He often tells the story of how out of 24 people who applied for jobs at a KFC outlet in China, he was the only one rejected.
He overcame his difficult beginnings, though, to build a multi-billion-dollar online company that accounts for 11 percent of all Chinese retail sales today.
Ma’s journey to business success and fortune through the opportunities provided by the Internet likely inspired thousands of budding Kenyan entrepreneurs who are already active in the IT sector.
A strong advocate of global trade, Ma believes in the potential of e-commerce as a tool for growing the local economy in developing countries; therefore, he argues against imposing multiple regulations and taxes on the emerging sector.
Ma also advises the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on youth entrepreneurship and small businesses.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi says he hopes Ma’s visit will foster a closer working relationship between African and Chinese businessmen.
“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,” Dr. Kituyi said.
“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.”