It’s Teacher’s Day (Sept 10) in China. Alibaba founder and chairman couldn’t have chosen a better day to resign. He was once an English teacher himself and is still today still nicknamed Teacher Ma. The mogul who ushered e-commerce into China and built a USD 4460 Bn firm is stepping down. This comes as a sequel to an earlier announcement by Ma last year.
China’s Richest, Education Enthusiast
At an Alibaba event held last September, Ma revealed his intentions to venture into other fields.
“Before I’m 70 years old, I can do something in other fields, in areas like education,” he said. While he was vacating from the senior management and board some time ago, the tech space knew it wasn’t yet seeing the last of him. He retains a 6.22 percent share of Asia’s most valuable company and remains a lifetime partner of Alibaba Group.
Asides from being a Communist Party Member, Mas is his country’s most famous entrepreneur. With a fortune of nearly USD 40 Bn, he undoubtedly the richest man in China. Ma referred to his previous career as a teacher while explaining the reason he’s departing from his company.
“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing … for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles,” Ma said last September. At the World Economic Forum last year, Ma discussed the challenges of future education. He warned that: “If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years later we will be in trouble.”
The current knowledge-based approach of teaching will “fail our kids” who will never be able to compete with machines, Ma said. Children should be taught “soft skills” like independent thinking, values, and teamwork, he added. In 2017, Ma’s foundation pledged USD 45 Mn over 10 years to help discover and cultivate future teaching talent in rural China.
Jack Ma Succeeded By Mark Zhang
Accountant Mark Zhang, a stark contrast to Jack Ma, will take up the role of Alibaba Chairman. Ever since the African traveler founded the e-commerce giant 20 years ago, Zhang has found a way to become a recognized Chinese entrepreneur.
What does Ma say of Zhang? In 2018 when he was being appointed as CEO, Ma said his successor has the logic and thinking skills of a supercomputer. He has: “commitment to his vision, the courage to wholeheartedly dare to take on innovation business models and industries of the future.
This development comes at a time when Alibaba is looking to do a second listing of its shares. After a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the firm is trying to go public again, this time on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. However, the protests in Hong Kong are delaying the share sale. The IPO might be one of the things Zhang will take on as the new chairman.
Even though he’s retiring at a relatively young age, Jack Ma didn’t fail to include Africa in his epic story. He has made several visits to the continent, places such as Rwanda, Kenya, and South Africa.
While Nigeria is still waiting for his touchdown, the entrepreneur’s business in Africa is already making waves for the tech ecosystem. Alibaba is planning to take some Rwandans to China to train them to become impactful entrepreneurs.
In November 2017, Jack Ma selected 25 African entrepreneurs to join the eFounders Initiative Entrepreneurship Training Program, which was titled “Shaping Champions for the New Economy.”
As Special Adviser to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses, he participated actively in the two-day visit to address matters regarding entrepreneurship, e-commerce, China-Africa trade and business opportunities. The 2017 activity marked his first visit to Africa, during which he spoke on the value of constant learning and the power of the internet.
Even with his resignation, there are still hopes that Ma’s foundation will continue his activities and support in the continent.