Cape Town - Jack Ma, Paradise Foundation co-chair and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman attending the African Ranger Awards Ceromony at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town. File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

JOHANNESBURG - Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, on Wednesday encouraged young African entrepreneurs to take giant leaps in solving challenges facing the continent and take advantage of the digital economy, saying that opportunities lie where people complain.

Ma was speaking at the launch of the "Netpreneur Prize" initiative in Johannesburg. The initiative has been established to create a community of 1,000 young e-commerce entrepreneurs from developing countries years to receive grants totalling U.S.$10 million by 2030.

"When I started my company in 1994 people said, 'Jack, you are telling a lie, there is no such thing as 'internet'. You can't register this company.' To prove I was not a liar, I invited people to my room and we waited three hours to download the first page," Ma said to a resounding applause. 

"The same questions they are asking you, they were asking me when I started Alibaba. It doesn't matter that you don't have good payments, or good infrastructure or good logistics. You can do it. The best way to create jobs is to support small businesses. The best way to create jobs is to encourage young people."

The "Netpreneur Prize" initiative has been setup by the Jack Ma Foundation to support and fund local African entrepreneurs that are working to address Africa's most important challenges and further its digital economy through local entrepreneurship.

Ma has built Alibaba to be one of the top ten most valuable companies in the world with a market cap of U.S$542 billion. It's initial public offering in 2014 made Ma one of the wealthiest mean in Asia.

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African News Agency (ANA)