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Enabling youth to power the digital economy

- Wits University

Hundreds descended upon Wits to hear the legendary Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, address entrepreneurs, students and policy makers.

Wits University was selected as the site of the important event, Netrepreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions, organised by Alibaba and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in support of their mission to grow African economies through entrepreneurship.

The charismatic e-commerce billionaire enthralled the audience with his journey of humble beginnings and lessons learnt along the way.

During his talk he advocated for tax breaks to aid small businesses stating that big business does not need these as much as budding entrepreneurs. The event also served to launch the Jack Ma Foundation Netpreneur Prize for small businesses working to grow the continent’s digital economy. Entrepreneurs will compete for $1 million in prize money every year for the next 10 years.

The digital economy, which is set to revolutionise the economy, is seen as an equaliser and an opportunity for Africa which has the world’s youngest population and thus poised to benefit from the new economy provided that the lions and lionesses of Africa rise to the challenge.

Universities will continue to play a key role in unlocking Africa’s potential in the digital economy.

Wits Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe opened the event watched by audiences across the world. He later participated in a panel discussion themed Digital Talent: Enabling Africa’s to Power the New Economy, where he shared current and future steps by Wits University to accelerate entrepreneurship and the digital economy.

Wits is tackling head-on the challenge of nurturing innovation and youth entrepreneurship through the Tshimolong Digital Precinct and the Wits Centre for Entrepreneurship.

In another bold move to shift thinking and embed entrepreneurship in the lives of students and the University, Wits has launched the ‘Entrepreneurs ways’ said Kupe.

“This means that all Wits courses will directly or indirectly have an entrepreneural component that includes a digital dimension,” Kupe.

Entrepreneurship has been identifie as one of the solutions to the high unemployent rate in the country.

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released in July 2018 by Statistics South Africa, the official unemployment rate has increased to 27.2 percent from 26.7 percent in the previous period.

Government has often been criticed for its failure in supporting small businesses. Ma however said this is common across the world. Banks and governments do not give to the little guys.

"Don't wait for government, by the time government comes it will be too late" he said adding that by the time government delivers the infrastucture, entrepreneurs would have missed out on the opportunities to deliver that which government is struggling to provide.