ADDIS ABABA – Chinese e-commerce mogul Jack Ma launched a digital trading platform in Ethiopia on Monday to boost the African country’s cross-border trade.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ma launched the e-World Trade Platform at Ethiopia’s ICT Park, located in the capital.
“This is the beginning that Africa can compete with Europe and America,” Ma said during the inauguration.
“In the past, we believed in big; for the future, we believe in small – small is beautiful,” Ma said in a nod to the fact the trading platform is hoping to get small and medium-sized enterprises on board.
“Today Africa joins the globalized new model of trade,” Ma added.
“New formation of globalization will start from developing countries such as Ethiopia.
“In the past, the world was divided into developed and developing nations.
“In the future, this will change to whether you are e-country or not e-country.”
Ma took the opportunity to announce that the next African Netpreneur Prize Initiative would be held in Addis Ababa with a $100million grant prize, a huge increase on the previously awarded $10 million award.
Ma’s foundation staged the event in Ghana last year.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize said Ethiopia has been on the move to transforming itself into a digital economy.
The partnership that Ethiopia struck with the Jack Ma Foundation and Yiwu city in China to launch the e-WTP was part of that endeavor, Abiy added.
For the digital trading platform to come to fruition Ethiopia, China and Jack Ma Foundation signed three memoranda of understanding: the first on e-WTP Framework, a second on capacity building and a third on the creation of a comprehensive digital hub.
“We are amazed by the speed of Ethiopia, a country of 110 million with 70 million percent of the population being under the age of 30. This is a great opportunity,” the Ali Baba Group CEO said.
The e-WTP will be instrumental in getting the African country to join the global digital economy and will boost Ethiopia’s world business ranking as well as drawing more tourists.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation Getachew Mekuria said that the e-WTP was Ali Baba’s offshoot born in 2016 to benefit small and micro enterprises and disadvantaged groups such as women.
According to him, e-WTP will facilitate the flow of goods e-commerce, retail and wholesale trading sectors in addition to helping Ethiopian youths acquire training in digital skills.
Melaku Beshah, Ethiopia branch director for a US company Excellerent Technology Solutions told Efe that the “coming of Jack Ma to Ethiopia will be a great opportunity for the country to attract more tech companies from across the world, especially Amazon and Microsoft.”
Over the past decade, China’s presence in Africa has been pervasive through its official development assistance that has focused on infrastructure.
China’s strategic interests in Africa, according to the analysts, is due to the latter’s enormous untapped wealth including gold and diamond mining, the presence of oil, natural gas, uranium and copper among many other key resources.
China has become the leading provider of development financing for Africa with a $60 billion package it provided under the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).