On Wednesday this week, Jack Ma launched the Netpreneur prize at the “Netpreneur: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions” conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The conference was jointly organized by Alibaba Business School, the Jack Ma Foundation, and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
The Netpreneur prize’s mission is to “encourage young Africans to bring forward solutions for Africa and the future through entrepreneurship”. It is aimed at empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs, and those focusing on small business growth, grassroots innovation, and women founders.
$10 Million in grant money will be won by these small businesses that will compete for $1 million in prize money every year for the next 10 years.
“The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, designed by The Jack Ma Foundation, is designed to recognize and support the youthful generation of African entrepreneurs, through whom the continent can achieve inclusion and prosperity,” reads the description on the website.
The Jack Ma Foundation will lead the execution of the program with assistance from different players in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The advisory council for the prize is made up of Jack Ma as well as Ban Ki-Moon, the former, and eighth, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
According to the website, there’s supposed to be a third advisor who is yet to be unveiled. Though, that is likely to be an African or woman if they are looking to give the council a diverse appearance.
The mentors and judges haven’t been unveiled yet as well as the partner media channels and the regional hubs they will be looking to work with.
However, these will be selected from across the 5 regions of the continent. That is; Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, and Central Africa.
“The finalists will be selected by a team of judges from five regions representing the entire continent,” reads part of the press release.
Kenya’s Nailab will take the lead when it comes to implementing the program in other regional hubs. “The program will be offered across the continent through lead continental partner, Nailab, and other regional hub partners.”
The first cohort 10 will be selected next year after running a competition.
“Starting in 2019, the Jack Ma Foundation will host an annual pitch competition, with ten finalists selected from across the continent to showcase their talent and business ideas and compete for US$1 Million in prize money,” read the press release [PDF].
All the 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”.
Applications for the first pitch competition will be open from January 2019 until April 2019, and the finalist pitch competition will be held in the second half of 2019.
Here are the timelines for the prize;
It was launched on 8th August 2018 but will not be open to applications from entrepreneurs until January 15th, 2019. The window will be open for three months and close on 15th April 2019.
The regional selection process will then take place for the next two months from 20th April to 15th June 2019. The regional semi-finals events will take place across the continent from 1st July to 31st August.
While the Grand prize event will take place in fall/winter. Which means anywhere between the close of the regional events to the end of the year.
Only “young entrepreneurs” with registered businesses in their countries of operation will be eligible to apply to the programs. Additionally, these founders “should be African nationals from any of the 54 African countries.”