OPEN LETTER FROM SOUTH AFRICA TO JACK MA
DEAR MR. MA,
The South African technology startup community is extremely excited about your first visit to South Africa. The excitement is inspired partly by the fact that the South African tech startup eco-system considers your success as an inspiration. Your success with Alibaba is the proof that it is possible to create something of value outside of the United States of America. Your humble beginnings in the technology sector resonates with many tech startup founders in South Africa. There’s a belief amongst many that your visit will mean something for many tech startups that are struggling in the African continent.
A few days ago, President Xi Jinping was in South Africa for the first BRICS Summit in the continent. Some of us questioned the fact that technology leaders ,like yourself, were not part of this important meeting for the BRICS Nations. Some of us also recommended that the next BRICS Summit should include technology leaders like yourself.
The fact that in a matter of days after the BRICS Summit 2018 you are visiting South Africa is considered a blessing for many who were hoping for your leadership and presence at the BRICS Summit 2018.
One of the conclusions by leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was that there should be more trade between BRICS countries beyond the BRICS Summit 2018. Some of us felt that the trade between BRICS nations can be enabled by technology . Some of us felt that yourself and other leaders from all BRICS countries should start a process of developing digital means of enabling trade amongst BRICS nations.
Now that you are visiting South Africa, hot on the heels of BRICS leaders, consider a creation of a BRICS Digital platform together with other technology leaders from BRICS nations.
Start by identifying candidates from the 100 Netrepreneurs that were chosen by your foundation and the United Nations (UN). Your initiative together with the UN is commendable and many who care about technology in the African continent are truly appreciative of your gesture.
As you work towards developing technology leaders in the continent we have 3 things to request from you which are the following:
1.African products in China
We do understand that your efforts to groom local technology leaders is also about expanding Alibaba into the African continent. This is welcomed as South Africa and other African countries are open for business. At the same time please make sure that African products can also be traded in China. In South Africa we have wonderful young people who are creating unique African products. One that comes to mind is Maxhosa who is an outstanding Fashion Designer. Please consider his products for the Chinese markets including for Alibaba.com.
2.African tech startups in China
South African tech startups cannot reach their full potential by just operating in South Africa. Access to the Chinese market is a necessary intervention for the African continent to have a unicorn that we can all be proud of. Please visit technology Accelerators in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal to see for yourself local tech innovations that can operate in the Chinese Market.
3.African tech startups investment from China
Lastly, access to capital is one of the major obstacle for local startups. Please consider a Venture Capital Fund specifically for African technology startups. Please engage other investors from China to consider investing on African tech startups to truly make the resolutions concluded at the BRICS Summit 2018 a reality.
We hope your visit to South Africa will not be the last. In future, when Alibaba is one of the major e-commerce players in the African continent, we hope Africa will have its own Unicorn that we can say was made possible by your first visit in South Africa.
Enjoy your stay in South Africa,
Wesley Diphoko - Editor-In-Chief: The Infonomist