The government of Rwanda signed three agreements with Alibaba that will see exports from the African country reach consumers in the vast Chinese market. The platform is dubbed the Electronic World Trade Platform, and it went live on October 31, 2018.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda personally signed the document. As per the agreement, Alibaba will b working with the Rwanda Development Board to support SMEs.
After the signing of the agreement, done during a ceremonial event held on Wednesday last week, Rwanda became the first African country to join the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP). The eWTP platform is designed to drive public-private dialogue on online business and is part of a bigger plan by the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, and the Electronic World Trade Platform.
“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 our entrepreneurs and businesspeople,” said President Kagame.
“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.”
Jack Ma reiterated the benefits of digital technology to SMEs in Rwanda looking to export to the big Chinese market. They will be able to overcome many of the cross-border bottlenecks that traditionally inhibit trade.
“Entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and elsewhere in Africa, are ready to seize the opportunities offered by the digital economy. It is up to all of us to help them succeed,” said Jack Ma.
“We are making new rules for the future; we are making improvements for the world trade.”
The Alibaba-Rwanda deal will see the e-commerce giant give special preferences to Rwandan SMEs in selling their products – particularly coffee and handicrafts – to the Chinese market on the Alibaba online platforms.
Also inked on the deal is Alibaba’s commitment to promoting tourism to Rwanda via its online travel platform. There will also be an excursion where 50 university lecturers from Rwanda will take part in Alibaba’s Global e-Commerce Talent Program. A program designed to deepen their understanding of the e-commerce industry.
Rwanda’s growing e-Commerce Space
Rwanda is reported to have over 100,000 registered businesses, but only a handful have any presence online. That’s according to RICTA, an organization tasked with encouraging businesses in Rwanda to take their businesses online.
“Recent statistics show that e-commerce is going to drive the next phase of the Internet boom and also improve Rwanda’s digital landscape – doing business electronically without the seller and buyer being in physical contact,” said Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the CEO of RICTA.