For any country to develop, attention should be paid to improving the education system, investing in entrepreneurs as well as clean governance.
These were the parting words of Chinese business tycoon Jack Ma at the South Africa Investment Conference business dinner on Friday.
Ma was a guest speaker at the event which saw the state of the South African economy discussed by leaders of business and government as well as various stakeholders.
During the conference billions of rands in pledges and investment commitments were announced. These will form part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s R1 trillion investment attraction drive for the next five years.
“For a country to develop, there are three basic things that have to be done that are important. The first is education, it’s always good to invest in education. Investing in people is the best investment in the whole world. And the second thing is trust, build and support entrepreneurs. Make entrepreneurs the heroes. At the top of this is a good and clean government,” Ma, the cofounder and chair of the Alibaba Group, said.
World countries should be concerned at the growth rate of technology, he said, as the fourth industrial revolution “is very scary” as “it relieves the power of human beings”.
The world needed to adopt changed education systems. “We have to change the things we teach our kids. We have to do better than the machines – they can be better than the machines,” he said.
He said they need to be more innovative, more creative and more constructive.
“Every country should pay attention to the people who are below the age of 30. They are the internet generation. Please pay attention to companies with less than 30 employees. This technology evolution is a big challenge for big companies, it’s a big opportunity for small companies. Small is going to be beautiful and small is going to be powerful.”
He encouraged African entrepreneurs to remain optimistic and form relations, saying he had a lot of faith in the business prospects of the region.
President Ramaphosa said Ma’s lessons on education, entrepreneurship and an efficient government were important.
“What I particularly liked is that we should treat our entrepreneurs as heroes and move away from what we’ve become accustomed to where we treat entrepreneurs and call them all sorts of names. We treat them as enemies with terms like white monopoly and all that. It ends today, we want to make our businesspeople heroes. Let us see them as heroes because they are here to develop our economy,” the President said.
He announced that the South African government had formed a partnership with Jack Ma’s Alibaba that will see young South Africans receiving training in the near future.
South Africa should have a training hub for South Africans to be as great entrepreneurs as Ma and the others who started Alibaba.
President Ramaphosa thanked Ma for attending the conference.