Jack Ma Sees Virgin Land In Africa For E-Commerce Entrepreneurs

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Jack Ma
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (left) with Alibaba founder Jack Ma (right). Image: Ethiopian government

Ethiopia has become the second African country to join Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), an e-commerce initiative aimed at bringing Ethiopian businesses into the digital economy.

People from around the world will have direct access to Ethiopian products through the platform. Ethiopia joins Rwanda, China, Malaysia, and Belgium on the platform

An initiative of Ma’s Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the platform makes it possible for Ethiopian small and medium-sized businesses to sell their products to an international market and get direct access to Chinese consumers.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ma formally launched the Electronic World Trade Platform in Ethiopia on Nov. 25, 2019, allowing businesses in the country to take part in cross-border electronic trade.

The Electronic World Trade Platform is expected to empower digital businesses in Ethiopia with information about export opportunities and access to trade finance and logistics.

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In 2018, Rwanda became the first African country to establish an Electronic World Trade Platform in collaboration with Alibaba. 

By adding more countries to the platform, Ma hopes to boost online trade between the countries, connecting buyers and sellers to provide new opportunities for small businesses interested in selling their products online, according to ITWeb.

Jack Ma believes in African e-commerce

Ma says he’s confident that African entrepreneurs will embrace the platform’s opportunities in e-commerce, logistics and e-payments.

“People like e-commerce, today people trust e-commerce. It’s just like virgin land. People need it,” Ma told Bloomberg during a stop in Togo while on a visit to Africa in November.

Ma has been a frequent visitor to Africa in recent years, launching an initiative to support and fund entrepreneurship. He’s met with African leaders including Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Togo President Faure Gnassingbé, Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In August 2018 Ma announced a $10 million fund and program, dubbed the “Netpreneur“, that will support African entrepreneurs who are working within the digital economy to address Africa’s most important challenges, according to Ventureburn.

As part of the Netpreneur initiative, Ma said he set aside $10 million in funding for 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade. During Ma’s visit to Ethiopia at the end of November, he raised that funding amount to $100 million through the Jack Ma Foundation.

Ma stepped down from his role at China’s largest company, Alibaba, in September after amassing a $41.8 billion fortune.