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by Ismail Akwei, at 06:00 pm, November 01, 2018, Money Moves

Rwanda opens door to Chinese firm Alibaba to build Africa’s first digital economy

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma during the launch of the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in Kigali

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has launched Africa’s first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) with the help of Chinese multinational technology conglomerate and the world’s largest e-commerce platform operator Alibaba Group to engage small businesses in electronic cross-border trade.

Alibaba will support Rwanda’s economic development by working with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to help Rwandan SMEs sell their products, including coffee and handcrafts, to the more than half a billion Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces while facilitating tourism to Rwanda and providing capacity building to empower the growth of Rwanda’s digital economy.

“Rwandan producers will be able to sell directly to a much larger set of customers than before, while bypassing costly intermediaries. This improves productivity and profitability. There really are no downsides to doing business on a global scale,” Kagame said at the launch in Kigali on Wednesday.

He added that Rwanda values its relationship with the Chinese private sector and focuses on mutual benefit to improve productivity and profitability for Rwandans.

“Let me reiterate that Rwanda greatly values our growing relationship with the Chinese private sector and Alibaba Group in particular. The product being launched today is a tangible example of that, and one that we intend to build on for mutual benefit.”

Co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, praised Rwanda and Kagame for creating an environment for technological development in the country.

“I’m amazed by President Paul Kagame’s leadership, courage and vision. Every time I speak to him, we talk about technology, jobs, environment, and I am always so impressed. He makes things happen.

“People ask, ‘Why Rwanda? There are so many countries in Africa.’ When I first came I was shocked by its ability to embrace change. If every country was like Rwanda think how powerful could Africa be. My answer is, ‘Why not Rwanda?’” he added.

Ma also tried to demystify the popular notion that China is taking over Africa as the country is heavily investing in infrastructure and economies on the continent.

“In the future, it will be “Made in Internet”, not “Made in China”. We have to prepare. Complaining doesn’t solve anything, let’s build a system that supports developing countries and young people,” the Chinese business magnate added.

As part of the agreement, Alibaba’s travel services platform called Fliggy will promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences. The store also has a destination pavilion where Chinese consumers can learn about the country and its tourist sites.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial will also share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy. The company will also provide capacity building to academics, policymakers and entrepreneurs on how to grow a digital economy.

The world’s largest e-commerce platform has more than half a billion Chinese consumers and already, several brands of Rwandan single origin coffee are already available for sale on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform.

The Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) is expected to be spread across the continent to enable small businesses in Africa to take part in the cross-border electronic trade.

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