JENNY W. HSU - 1 November 2018
Alibaba Group and the government of Rwanda have agreed to multiple bilateral initiatives to promote the African country’s economy through increased cross-border trade, capacity building and tourism.
The signing of three memoranda of understanding, witnessed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, took place on Wednesday in the capital city of Kigali.
First eWTP Hub in Africa
A major tenet of the agreements is Rwanda’s admission to the Electronic World Trade Platform, the first in Africa so far. The eWTP provides small and medium-sized enterprises with operational infrastructure, such as commerce logistics, cloud computing, mobile payments and skills training. By doing so, the eWTP allows SMEs the chance to participate in the global economy when that opportunity might otherwise be available only to multinational companies.
This is Ma’s second trip to Rwanda after his initial visit to Africa in 2017. During those visits, Ma had said he was impressed by the country’s young entrepreneurs and local businesses and pledged to support the growth of the digital economy in Africa. The partnership is a step toward fulfilling that pledge.
Photo: Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group (left) and President Paul Kagame (right) at the eWTP Africa launch event (credit: Alibaba)
Helping Rwanda’s Small Businesses
Rwanda’s economy has seen growth thanks in part to coffee and tea exports, as well as support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In the first half of 2017, Rwanda’s annual growth reached 6.1%, thanks to “improved export performance, revitalized agriculture and resumption of growth in private consumption,” a World Bank report said. That figure is expected to grow to 7.2% and 7.5% in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
At the ceremony, President Kagame touted the eWTP’s potential to open up new channels of trade for Rwandan entrepreneurs and businesses, especially in e-commerce and tourism.
“Rwandan producers will be able to sell directly to a much larger set of customers than before, while bypassing costly intermediaries,” he said. “This improves productivity and profitability. There really are no downsides to doing business on a global scale.”
As part of the collaboration, Alibaba also pledged to work with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the National Agricultural Export Development Board to help the country’s SMEs sell their products, including coffee and handicrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces such as Tmall Global, a platform of over half a billion consumers.
Several brands of Rwandan single-origin coffee are already on sale on the platform. In just a few days after the launch, over 1,000 bags of Rwanda coffee beans were sold.
Tmall Global is also running an educational campaign called “Tear Off the Label for Africa”, to strip away the traditional view on African and products from the continent, to raise Chinese consumers awareness of Rwanda products. The campaign has already boosted Chinese consumers’ interest in Rwandan coffee by 200%, Tmall Global said.
Source: Alibaba Group