Ma was a no-show as a judge on the entrepreneurial talent series, Africa’s Business Heroes, in November, just weeks after he was quoted in a press release as saying that he was looking forward to meeting the candidates during the competition’s finale.
The tech titan has not appeared on other public platforms for weeks, including Twitter. His last tweet was posted on October 10 to mark his involvement in Prince William’s Earthshot Prize environmental initiative — though it must be said that Ma is not a prolific tweeter.
The Financial Times first spotted his absence from Africa’s Business Heroes. The British newspaper quoted an Alibaba spokesperson as saying: “Due to a schedule conflict Mr Ma could no longer be part of the finale judge panel of Africa’s Business Heroes earlier this year (2020).”
His disappearance is being linked to a frank speech he made in October at the Bund Summit in Shanghai, in which he was critical of regulators for stifling innovation and said Middle Kingdom banks have a “pawnshop mentality.” His address reportedly upset Chinese officials.
Following the speech, the $37B IPO for Ma’s fintech company Ant Group was suspended. Ma retired from Alibaba in 2019, though he remains an icon of the Chinese business world.
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