Jack Ma, e-commerce magnate and owner of Alibaba Group Holding, a company that facilitates trade via the Web had a resounding message when he spoke at the University of Nairobi on Thursday: “Stop procrastinating on business ideas”.
“If you are a real entrepreneur, you will never wait to start a business,” he said.
The entrepreneur urged young people to take advantage of technology and data.
“The future of entrepreneurship is on the Internet. This is a challenge and an opportunity,” he said, adding: “It scares me sometimes”.
“Opportunity always exists where people are complaining. Look for the problem. Solve it. Look for problems you can solve for the world. Start preparing and you will be a successful person five years from now,” he said.
He told youngsters to take advantage of the Internet and sell their products abroad.
“The rest of the world is worried of losing what it has but Africa has nothing to lose, and that is your opportunity,” the billionaire said.
“I hear people say Africa has many problems. Those problems are opportunities.”
The 53-year-old businessman said the average age of the African youth of 19, adding that it was an advantage for the continent as the rest of the world worried about an aging population.
“The youth should focus on where the world is heading in the coming 30 years, an age that will be characterised by technology,” he said.
“Those who use the Internet well and to their advantage will win big.”
The businessman also called on African governments to invest in Internet infrastructure.
He told Africans not to blindly ape other countries’ development models, insisting that the environment must be protected.
Mr Ma said he started his business long before the Internet era.
“I never thought I would be rich. Even my wife and parents never imagined that,” he said, adding that they said he had no genes for wealth.
And he had advice for those pursuing material possession.
“Be a person who is respected, not necessarily wealthy,” he said.
Ma who has confessed to having been a poor student and having failed numerous times at getting employment, said he promised himself not to spend time trying to be number one in academics but trying to be top at helping people solve their problems.
Earlier, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Chinese businessman was an inspiration to millions of young people in Africa, especially in Kenya “where the youth have been setting global trends in innovation and technology”.
Mr Ma is in the country with 38 dollar billionaires from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Forbes values the businessman’s wealth at $28.3 billion.
The conference at the University of Nairobi was also attended by Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi and several other dignitaries.
Mr Kituyi also served as Trade minister in the coalition government. Mr Ma said to be successful, one must understand and support people.
“Many people in China don’t like me because they say I have destroyed their businesses,” he said, adding that 80 to 90 per cent of the world business would be online in a few years to come.
He said in the first two months of his startup, business was so bad that company workers posted items on the platform and bought them amongst themselves.
By 2016, he said, Alibaba had transacted in goods valued at more than $550 billion. The company delivers more than 65 million packages daily globally.
“I have never let failure stop me. People tend to complain of missing bank loans, failure of government’s help or not being born rich. Complaining does not help at all,” he said.
– This article was published by Daily Nation on 21/07/2017.