Alibaba Group founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma has launched the Jack Ma Foundation Netpreneur Prize. The new programme was created to support and fund African entrepreneurs who are working to address Africa’s most important challenges and further its digital economy.

The Prize will award US$10-million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years. It aims to empower a new generation of entrepreneurs, and will focus on small business growth, grassroots innovation and women founders.

Starting in 2019, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with ten finalists selected from across the continent. Finalists will compete for US$1-Million in prize money. All ten finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices and resources.

How to enter the Netpreneur Prize

While the competition will be open to entrepreneurs in all industries, Mr. Ma expects many of the applicants to be founders of businesses that are internet-driven given the open and inclusive impact technology can have on local economies.

Applicants must be African nationals leading mission-driven organisations. The finalists will be selected by a team of judges representing the entire continent. Applications will be open from January 2019 until April 2019. The finals will be held and broadcast across Africa in the second half of 2019.

Jack Ma said: “As a fellow entrepreneur, I understand the importance of getting support during the early days. This prize demonstrates our support of the next generation of young entrepreneurs across Africa who are paving the way for a better future and imparting positive change in their communities. I am inspired and encouraged by these entrepreneurs who, together, will help build a sustainable, inclusive economy for Africa and for the world.”

The Netpreneur Prize is the second initiative launched by Jack Ma to support African entrepreneurs. Last year, Alibaba Business School and UNCTAD announced the eFounders Fellowship Initiative, a programme that will train 1000 entrepreneurs from emerging markets. 200 of these will come from Africa. The aim is to build a community of young entrepreneurs committed to creating digital platforms to build more inclusive economies.

To date, 52 African entrepreneurs have participated in this two-week fellowship at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Participants make a two-year commitment to improving society through their businesses. Many graduates have made significant progress with their businesses and become catalysts for digital transformation in their home countries, including raising rounds of investment as well as launching their own training programmes.