Alibaba Supports Rwanda’s Knowledge-Based Economy Through E-Commerce Lessons

Paul Kagame
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame delivers his speech during the 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda April 7, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Jean Bizimana)

Chinese online retail giant Alibaba has shown support for Rwanda's goal of achieving a knowledge-based economy. The tech behemoth said it will launch an e-commerce program for students from Rwanda.

According to China Daily, the Alibaba Business School is looking to enroll 30 students from Rwanda by September. Enrollees will stay in Hangzhou for four years to study a wide range of tech and e-commerce subjects. The goal is to produce Rwandan students who will help transform the country's economy through improved business models and programs

Rwanda, a country in central Africa, has been working to establish an economy founded on knowledge. One of the priorities of the country is to inculcate business and technology among Rwandan students.

As part of the Rwandan government's efforts, an agreement was signed last year with Alibaba. The goal was to develop the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) that Jack Ma proposed in 2016. The eWTP seeks to promote the African country's business environment to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) boost trade participation.

Last month, news emerged about Kenya reportedly losing the eWTP deal to Rwanda. Alibaba was initially interested in setting up e-commerce classes for Kenyan learners but the Kenyan government reportedly didn't seem to display much interest in Ma's proposal.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Dr Mukhisa Kituyi was quoted to have said Rwandan President Paul Kagame showed more enthusiasm and proactive insights regarding the deal. This reportedly led to Rwanda bagging the huge e-commerce deal.

Kituyi noted that since Kagame started following up with Ma on the educational platform, coffee sales improved by up to 40 percent. The UN official noted that Rwanda grabbed the opportunity of learning and benefiting from Chinese retail experience while Kenya settled for mediocrity.

Rwanda has been seeking partnerships with China over the past couple of years. Kagame has also been showing determination in implementing reforms that should help the country enhance it's economy and digitization schemes.

Economists noted that Rwanda is far from the country that experienced traumatic turmoil from the genocide in 1994 that saw over two million residents fleeing their country for fear of their lives. The African state has shown huge potential in economic transformation, analysts observed.

The deal with China's Alibaba Group is expected to further hoist Rwanda above other African regions. The e-commerce and educational deal is expected to play a major role in Kagame's ultimate goal of transforming the Rwandan economy into "Africa's Singapore."

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