ALIBABA, the Chinese e-commerce conglomerate, has extended its international trade platform to a second African state, providing Ethiopia with electronic infrastructure which allows access to services and markets, including China.
The e-commerce giant has agreed to develop an electronic world trade platform (eWTP) in Ethiopia, following an agreement with the government, which made it the second country in Africa to join the project.
The partnership was formalised by the signing of three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the two sides, in the presence of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who stepped down as chairman in September, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as well as Alibaba group director and chief executive of Ant Financial Services, Eric Jing.
It follows the signing of three MoUs with Rwanda in October 2018, and the involvement of countries in Asia and Europe, including Malaysia and Belgium.
The eWTP will provide Ethiopian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to cross-border trade, smart logistics and other services, including training. In particular, the scheme is designed to allow local companies to reach international markets including China.
Among the facilities in the platform are logistics, cloud computing and mobile payments services. The hub will be developed in partnership with China Commodities City International (CCCI), while the training will come from Alibaba Business School.
Ethiopia’s Minister for Innovation and Technology, Getahun Mekuria said at the launch that the hub “is an important step in the development of a digital economy in Ethiopia. This engagement will greatly contribute to trade facilitation and open markets to SMEs not only in Ethiopia but in the wider region”.
Jing said: “We will continue to support the creation of a more inclusive, digitally-enabled global economy, where small businesses can participate in global trade. We look forward to working together with entrepreneurs and SMEs from Ethiopia and other African nations to seize the opportunities provided by the digital era.”
Ahmed’s reform-minded government has drawn positive headlines and won the prime minister a Nobel Peace Prize, which attracted new attention from investors. The country received the highest share of foreign investment in East Africa during 2018 and had the best growth figures in what is the continent’s best-performing region, economically.
A report by Absa and consultancy OMFIF recently found that while Ethiopia’s economy has made progress, with ‘rapid economic growth’ but had problems stemming from a lack of ‘financial markets infrastructure.’