Alibaba Group and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have welcomed the inaugural class of Afrikan entrepreneurs in China for a 2-week intensive course on e-commerce. Named the eFounders Initiative, the program is the brainchild of Alibaba Founder and Executive Chairperson, Jack Ma, aims to to help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries over the next five years.
This forms part of the promise that Ma made during his stop over in Rwanda earlier in 2017 where he announced that he will be creating a $10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund.
Jack Ma with the Afrikan entrepreneurs selected to participate in the eFounders Initiative.
"In the future, we will need more than the G20 and the B20 to create the kind of inclusive development the world needs, We need the G200 and B200," he said, calling for active engagement with students, government officials, and entrepreneurs from smaller countries and markets. Alibaba Group has a goal of serving 20 million consumers, creating 100 million jobs and enabling 10 million profitable SMEs. The B200 is a key piece of achieving that goal. The eFounders Initiative is the first tangible incarnation of the B200 promise. One of the participants from Kenya, 29-year-old entrepreneur Catherine Mahugu said, "It is the first time that I see what digital inclusion means," said Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairperson at Alibaba Group.
The inaugural eFounders Initiative sees 24 Africa-based entrepreneurs participating. The 2-week course takes place at Alibaba’s global headquarters in Hangzhou, China and offers capacity building for the entrepreneurs on all things e-commerce, from inventory management and rural commerce to logistics and mobile payment systems, as well as how to use data to best capture consumer preferences.
Afrikan Entrepreneurs tour Hema Supermarket to see how technology and data can be leveraged to merge online and offline shopping as part of the eFounders Initiative.
"Today, we have to be smart to make sure we do not miss the opportunity e-commerce represents, both as an engine of growth and as a source of inclusiveness, There are sharp differences on how countries use it and benefit from it. This contrast is nowhere more evident than in Africa, where less than five percent of the population shops online," said Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General at UNCTAD.
The organizers say that the 24 participants were selected from more than 700 applicants via a rigorous application process. They cover fields varying from mobile payments, big data, retail, logistics, and others. After graduating from the programme which is also conducted in association with Alibaba Business School, each of the ebtrepreneurs has committed to applying the programme's learnings to their own business objectives and to transferring their know-how to others to improve the e-commerce infrastructure of their country.
One of the entrepreneurs participating in the programme is Damilare Ogunyemi from Nigeria. Ogunyemi said that when he goes back to Nigeria after the programme, his focus will be on educating all those involved in the business on how to leverage technology to better capture and analyze the data.
"The goal of the initiative is to empower African entrepreneurs. We believe these participating entrepreneurs will play a very important role in the future creation of the New Economy in their country. We want them to become the Jack Mas of their countries," concluded Brian A. Wong, Vice President at Alibaba Group and Head of the Global Initiatives programme.