Jack Ma made his first trip to Africa on Thursday July 20. The founder of the Chinese e-commerce company, Alibaba, visited Kenya in the first leg of a two-state trip that saw him also going to Rwanda.
The business mans visit was heavily anticipated and celebrated. He gave a public lecture at the University of Nairobi where he discussed the value of constant learning and the power of the internet and all the many things that can be achieved with a combination of the two.
He shared insights with African entrepreneurs who seem more able to relate with his success than even that of Mark Zuckerberg’s who visited Africa last year but was not met with quite the same level of excitement.
The excitement on the part of Kenyans and other Africans may be due to the fact that Jack Ma’s success sems more relatable. His a success that was filled with incredible struggle; he applied for 30 jobs, including at KFC when it opened in his home city of Hangzhou and was rejected from all of them.
Jack Ma also struggled to go to college—he failing the entrance exam three times, and he started Alibaba from his apartment. In Africa where the systems make success an uphill battle, it is certainly a relatable struggle.
Although we may not be privy to the plans that were made when Jack Ma held talks with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss ways of empowering the youth through entrepreneurship, we can certainly learn from his words at the University of Nairobi.
On that note, here are twenty business tips we got from Jack Ma’s public lecture;
- Problems in your society are actually a source of inspiration for business. Jack Ma noted that Africa’s poor infrastructure, social, economic and political situation should be a source of innovation for most entrepreneurs. He said that the lack of e-commerce in his home country inspired him to start one of the biggest online marketplaces.
- He touched on the usefulness of failure and how it should be a catalyst for innovation and progress. According to him; “You have to get used to failure. If you can’t, then how can you win.”
- He insisted that being successful is not just about education and what you know, but rather about the opportunities you grab
- Jack Ma stated that the future belongs to netpreneurs; people who use the net to do business. According to him, 80-90% businesses in the future will be online.
- One thing that the net helps us to do is go beyond our localities and Jack Ma stresses that this will be important in the future. According to him, in a few years, if you are not selling world wide, you will not be in business.
- African entrepreneurs need to embrace technology because technology opens us up to opportunities that we would not normally have.
- He tried to disabuse us of the notion of striving to be number 1, saying instead that we need to strive to be the best in helping people become better. You should not focus on money but on getting the respect of the people you have helped.
- Jack Ma stressed that computers are only a frontage or a platform in eCommerce; it is a person to person business and the communication should remain human.
- The opportunity for Africa in the internet age is massive; the population is young and the market is still very huge.
- The eCommerce infrastructure in Africa is not very well developed and this creates an opportunity for people to work on providing a new and convenient shopping space.
- Africa is unique and better in so many ways than other parts of the world and African entrepreneurs need to protect that and take advantage of it.
- According to Jack Ma, the rules of business are: Customer First, Employee second, Shareholder last.
- He also touched on the importance of hiring women because they are structured to care about everyone else.
- Entrepreneurs should not fear mistakes but learn from them.
- The past and where you come from does not matter, you can do what you want to do.