The business world has been thrown into uncertainty following reports that Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has not made a public appearance in more than two months.
The Alibaba founder had in March 2020 donated medical supplies to Nigeria in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Ma failed to appear as scheduled in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, which gives budding African entrepreneurs the chance to compete for a slice of $1.5 million.
Ma was replaced by an Alibaba executive in the November final, UK’s Telegraph reported. His picture was also taken off the website.
Financial Times quoted an Alibaba spokesperson who said the businessman was unable to take part on the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict.”
Chinese authorities have been closely monitoring Ma’s business empire, Ant Group, ever since Ma delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on October 24 that criticised China’s regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an “old people’s club”, Yahoo Finance reports.
“Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma said in the speech.
“We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.”
About a week later, Ant’s IPO (valued at a record-setting $37 billion), which had already received the green light from China’s securities watchdog, was suspended.
Shanghai Stock Exchange said Ant had reported “significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment”.
Chinese authorities launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba in late December and told Ant Group to restructure its operations.