China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and the government of Rwanda Wednesday launched Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), which makes Rwanda the first African country that launches this platform.
The eWTP initiative was proposed by Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, in 2016. It aims to promote public-private dialogue to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in cross-border electronic trade.
Ma and Rwandan president Paul Kagame jointly unveiled the plaque of the eWTP at its launching ceremony, which also witnessed the signing of MOUs between the two sides in the areas of e-commerce, tourism, e-payment and capacity building, under the framework of eWTP.
Alibaba will work with Rwanda Development Board to help Rwandan small and medium-sized enterprises sell their products, including coffee and handicrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces.
Alibaba’s travel service platform and Rwanda Development Board will also work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences and a Destination Pavilion, where Chinese consumers can learn about Rwanda.
Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial will share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy.
Alibaba is also committed to providing capacity building to academics, policy makers and entrepreneurs on how to grow a digital economy. For policy makers, Alibaba will host a three-day workshop at its Hangzhou headquarters to showcase the nature, capabilities and promise of a new digital economy through first-hand experience with digital finance, logistics, e-commerce and big data industries.
A delegation of ministers and government officials responsible for the development of Rwanda’s digital economy will attend a workshop in Hangzhou in January 2019.
Alibaba will also continue to support Rwandan entrepreneurs through programs such as the eFounders Fellowship.
“I hope from today, the eWTP Rwanda can be able to support small businesses, young people and women here in Africa and sell their things to enable them to global buy, global sell, global deliver, global pay and global travel,” Ma said at the ceremony.
“If we can make 60 million small businesses in the world, they can do business and change the world. We want to ensure eWTP makes 80 percent of small businesses in Africa to be successful,” he said.
“Let’s support young people and small businesses to globalize,” he added.
The eWTP opens up new frontiers in e-commerce and tourism for Rwanda and will also boost the capacity and competitiveness of Rwandan entrepreneurs and business people, said Kagame.
Rwanda greatly values its growing relationship with the Chinese private sector and Alibaba Group in particular, he said, adding that the launch is a tangible example of that and one that Rwanda intends to build on for mutual benefits.
Wednesday’s launch is a “starting point” for eWTP in Rwanda and Africa, Angel Zhao, president of Alibaba Global Business Group, told a media briefing after the ceremony.
She expressed confidence on eWTP’s success in Africa. “We are going to build a long-term strategy (for eWTP in Africa),” she added.
Using eWTP is really key and comes at the right time as Rwanda launches its Made-in-Rwanda policy, designed to help boost local industrial contribution to the economic growth while promoting the brand of the Rwandan locally made products at the global stage, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry Soraya Hakuziyaremye said at the briefing.
It will help Rwanda’s young entrepreneurs and also local enterprise willing to export outside, she said.
“It (eWTP) is perfectly fit in our development agenda,” said Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board.
Rwanda’s development priorities, first of all, is to improve the income level of its people and eWTP provides very good opportunities for Rwandan people and entrepreneurs to be able to maximize their incomes from trading and export, said Akamanzi.
The future of Rwanda’s economic development is digital and data driven, CEO of the ICT Chamber of Private Sector Federation of Rwanda Alex Ntare said in an interview.
Next drivers of digital transformation of Rwanda is the digital transformation of trade, particularly enabling small and medium-sized enterprises both in formal and informal sectors to boost their customer reach through e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, said Ntare.
E-commerce will help in economic growth of Rwanda in many ways including cross-border trading, time saving, costs reducing, and enhancing convenience, he said.