East Africa: The coming of Jack Ma and 38 billionaire friends

July 24, 2017 Africa , Business , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

CFM photo



Awesu Olaniyi Williams


If there is any time in history for Nigeria to demonstrate her position has giant of Africa. That time must be now.

When Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria sometime ago, the whole of our media, both print and social, were agog. At every junction roadside reportage emerged, with tawdry headlines that best shame journalism, such as “See the Nigerian food Zuckerberg ate,” “Mr Zuckerberg jugs on Ikoyi bridge;” a host of ridiculous headlines defeating the purpose of his visit.

Andela, the programming/IT hub he came to visit, wasn’t given the expected coverage. Often, the true test of lunacy is doing the same thing while expecting different results.

The world recently marvelled at the impressive entourage of Jack Ma to Africa, Asia’s richest man and the founder of global e-commerce platform, Alibaba (Asia’s version of ebay). In Ma’s company to Africa were 38 billionaire friends from Beijing’s chambers of commerce.

It isn’t surprising the designated countries they’d decided to visit, each armed with pens hoping to sign business deals with emerging entrepreneurs in the areas of innovative technology.

Kenya and Rwanda, especially the latter, has seen her government investing heavily in the areas of social infrastructure. According to Ernst & Young’s 2016 Africa attractiveness program, East African countries recorded the highest share of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, achieving 26.3 percent of total projects.

At the moment Rwanda has one of the easiest means of doing business on the continent, which includes six hours of getting the necessary papers in floating a business enterprise. Such a feat can hardly be boast of by other big name African countries, including Nigeria apparently.

The future as it turns out wouldn’t be dominated by countries with magnificent oil deposits and huge populations within corresponding innovative sectors in health, IT, Agric, etc.

West African countries and Nigeria in particular must begin to take a cue from their East African counterparts regarding regional economic integration. Indeed no nation can forge a possible majority of one. Hence, the recently completed and Chinese bank rolled rail line linking Kenya and her neighbours (Uganda and co) further demonstrate the innovative thinking of the former country leaders.

Surprisingly, in recent times Rwanda has demonstrated how reconciliation can be a springboard for development in the post war era. In 2012, the Kigali administration created YouthConnekt, an entrepreneurial platform for young people with daring innovative ideas.

Fast forward to five years after, Rwanda YouthConnekt is playing host to 39 Chinese billionaires who are ready to witness young Rwandans pitch their business ideas and get possible funding outright, thanks to government building the right social infrastructures.

In no time Africa should expect the rise of a new silicon valley from the so called Nazareth of Rwanda and Kenya where economic naysayers have asked ‘can anything good come from Nazareth?’





Awesu Olaniyi Williams

Awesu Olaniyi is a 24 year old, second best graduating student of Political science education from Lagos State University where he won various regional and national awards for public speaking and environmental advocacy. He is currently a freelance writer, LGBT discussant and aspiring M.sc student of political science. He can be reached via [email protected].


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