By Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
CHINESE billionaire Mr Jack Ma visited Victoria Falls incognito and spent a night in the resort town. Mr Ma (53) landed on Wednesday afternoon on a private plane with a group of about 20 people and left yesterday morning via Victoria Falls International Airport.
Handlers for various tour operating companies could not identify the e-commerce mogul, until after his departure when a picture of him leaving a hotel was posted on social media.
Rumours abound that he is eyeing investment opportunities that have been attracting international financiers to Zimbabwe in droves since the advent of the new dispensation in November last year.
Mr Ma co-founded and chairs the Alibaba Group, which is one of the world’s largest e-commerce businesses and is China’s third richest multi-billionaire with a net worth of $39 billion, after Mr Ma Huateng and Hui Ka Yan who are worth $39 billion and $42 billion respectively.
He is also ranked 20th on the billionaires list for 2018 and number 21 on the list of the most powerful people in the world as well as 7th richest in technology and among the global game changers, according to Forbes Magazine.
Mr Ma’s investments beyond Alibaba include stakes in Chinese entertainment industry firms Huayi Brothers and Beijing Enlight Media.
He owns a vineyard in France and is a fan of martial arts and sparred against Jet Li and others in a short film released on Alibaba’s annual shopping bonanza, Singles’ Day.
Sources said Mr Ma mixed business with pleasure in Victoria Falls.
“He landed after 3pm and was with a group of about 20 people who were all different families. He was with his family and had come for holiday. We are told he may be doing some business, but everything is under wraps for now,” said a source.
Mr Ma’s visit puts Victoria Falls and the country on the world map especially at a time when the country is working hard to reposition the prime resort town as a destination of choice.
Government is also reaching out to potential investors to partner in various capital projects which are key to economic revival.
On Sunday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga commissioned a $1,2 billion project for the construction of a convention centre, shopping mall, medical centre and grand prix circuit in Victoria Falls.
Meanwhile, a group of about 30 paragliders are in Victoria Falls where they are expected to fly over the Rainforest and Victoria Falls as part of the Icarus Trophy 2018 series race which started in South Africa via Botswana, with the prime resort town being the highlight of the tour.