Ethiopia Partners With China’s Alibaba To Boost Tech Investment

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in April 2019. Ahmed visited Alibaba’s headquarters during the same trip. AP Photo – Andy Wong

Inspired by Ethiopian government reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, China’s biggest e-commerce platform is partnering with the country to boost its digital economy.

The partnership is expected to involve e-commerce giant Alibaba investing in digital transformation projects such as a proposed tech city while contacting and encouraging other Chinese tech firms to consider investing in the country, according to Techtrends.

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma plans to visit Ethiopia in November this year with a high-level delegation of Chinese investors interested in investing in its digital economy. 

A tech city is expected to be built in Ethiopia funded by Alibaba. Specific details have not been released at this stage but the project was first mentioned when Ma and Abiy met at the World Economic Forum meeting in January 2019.

Ahmed’s economic and political reforms have been aimed at re-positioning Ethiopia positively in the eyes of the world.

Since taking office in April 2018, Ahmed has released political prisoners, appointed women to more than half of his cabinet posts, persuaded a noted dissident to head the country’s election board and improved relations with Eritrea and Somalia, the BBC reports. He has also been open to foreign investment

Ahmed visited Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China in April this year to continue discussions about the partnership between his country and the Chinese e-commerce firm, AfricaNews reports.

The Prime Minister is exploring ways to cooperate with Chinese firms and attract foreign capital and expertise to Ethiopia.

This is not the first time Alibaba founder Ma has taken an interest in Africa. 

He visited Kenya in 2017 as special adviser for the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development. He brought with him a delegation of investors from China and intends to do the same for Ethiopia later this year.


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Ma committed to investing in entrepreneurship in South Africa following discussions with South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa. The Chinese businessman agreed to work with the South African government to set up a digital training center dedicated to developing entrepreneurs in the country, EWN reported.

It is unclear whether Ma, a self-made Chinese billionaire, would take a similar approach in Ethiopia. He is passionate about supporting young entrepreneurs.

In 2018, Ma announced a $10 million fund and program, dubbed the “Netpreneur”, that supports African entrepreneurs who are working within the digital economy to address Africa’s most important challenges, with $10 million to be awarded to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade.