BY SILVI WRITER
Rwanda’s premium coffee, tea and handcrafts will soon hit China’s massive online shopping markets, courtesy of the launch of electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in the African nation.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma launched first eWTP in Africa – the second outside China.
The new platform, which is also expected boost Rwanda’s tourism among Chinese holidaymakers, was launched on Wednesday, less than a fortnight before this year’s “Double 11”, the world’s biggest online extravaganza invented by Alibaba.
This year, there will be rising participation by overseas merchants and consumers to mark the event’s 10th anniversary, according to Alibaba.
Under the agreement, Alibaba will work with the Rwanda Development Board to help Rwandan small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to sell their products to Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces, it said.
According to RDB, Alibaba’s travel services platform, Fliggy, and the RDB will also work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda tourism store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences.
The first eWTP hub was launched in Malaysia in November last year.
“I have been waiting for this day almost for ten years,” Ma said at the launching ceremony.
Ma said setting up eWTP hub in Rwanda attracted a lot of negative opinions, like lack of sophisticated internet, logistics, market, payment and all the other related things. But he remained committed that Rwanda was the right place.
“I said this is why we came here. When other people complain, we take this as opportunity and today’s Africa is much better than the 90 years ago China,” he said.
“I am delighted that Rwanda is the first partner in Africa. I look forward to the development of an innovative digital economy here,” Ma added.
Kagame reiterated that Rwanda greatly values the growing relationship with the Chinese private sector and Alibaba in particular.
“The product being launched today is a tangible example of that, and one that we intend to build on for mutual benefit,” he said.
Kagame challenged Rwandan companies and young people to take full advantage of this technology and not lose sight of fundamentals, saying it is up to each firm to produce high-quality goods that customers want to buy and to ensure consistent supply.
He noted that 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. Put differently, there really are no downsides to doing business on a global scale,” Kagame said.
He observed that the electronic world trade platform opens up new frontiers in e-commerce and tourism for Rwanda and will also boost the capacity and competitiveness of the country’s entrepreneurs and business people.
The Hangzhou-based Alibaba runs Taobao online shopping site, and Tmall, a facilitator of online stores.
This week’s event was the 4th time Ma has met and talked to Kagame and was amazed by the way he cares about his country and his people.
“In this world, we believe seeing is believing. Very few people, we believe that we saw. Your President is the person believing in future,” Ma said.
While in Rwanda in 2017, Jack Ma committed to invest in the East Africa’s human capital to boost SME capacities.
He said then that this would include training emerging entrepreneurs across the region to enable small and medium enterprises build e-commerce platforms and using the internet to grow their enterprises.
It would also involve taking about 200 young African investors to his firm’s headquarters to learn latest skills in e-commerce, artificial intelligence among other sectors.