Entrepreneurs chart a new course for African E-Commerce With Jack Ma

African E-Commerce Entrepreneurs from seven different countries selected to participate in the eFounders Initiative with Chinese Billionaire, Jack Ma
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African E-Commerce Entrepreneurs from seven different countries selected to participate in the eFounders Initiative with Chinese Billionaire, Jack Ma

For Henry Cobblah, fashion is his business, the internet is his tool, and a Jack Ma-led initiative for budding entrepreneurs is the perfect conduit to help him realize his dream: letting the world see what Africa is truly made of.

I want others to know Africa has no shortage of talents, and I want Africans to tell the Africa story,” said the 27-year-old co-founder and the chief technology officer of Ahwenepa.com, a start-up online marketplace that features fashion products from over 70 African designers.

Cobblah, from Ghana, is one of the 24 Africa-based entrepreneurs participating in the inaugural “eFounders Initiative,” co-spearheaded by Alibaba Business School and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The two-week intensive course, which takes place at Alibaba’s global headquarters in Hangzhou, offers capacity-building 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.

As part of his commitment as the UNCTAD Special Adviser for Youth Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Alibaba’s Executive Chairman, Ma has pledged to help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing nations over the next five years.

During his Africa trip in July, Ma announced as part of his pledge, 200 of the continent’s young e-commerce pioneers would be invited to visit Hangzhou to learn from China’s experience in building an e-commerce ecosystem.

The program includes on-site visits to China’s wholesale hub in Yiwu and Cainao’s logistic campus. Participants also had the rare opportunity to attend this year’s annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival and experienced the excitement when Alibaba notched a record-breaking performance.

To top it off, the participants had a private meeting with Ma and a series of senior executives who lead the company’s key businesses.

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Entrepreneurs from Africa tour Hema Supermarket to see how technology and data can be leveraged to merge online and offline shopping.

Hailing from seven different African countries, the two dozen participants were selected from over 700 applicants via a rigorous application process.

All participants are current pioneers in their respective fields, varying from mobile payment, big data, retail, logistics, and others. Many of them are already the forerunners of e-commerce in their country.

Cobblah’s passion for showcasing Africa’s rapidly growing commerce sector on a global level and helping his fellow entrepreneurs to “push ourselves up to a higher standard” is precisely why Alibaba is undertaking this effort.

The goal of the initiative is to empower the African entrepreneurs by sharing our story and the new economy story of China,” said Brian A. Wong, vice president of Alibaba Group who heads the Global Initiatives program.

By coming to Hangzhou, these young entrepreneurs can see firsthand the impact of e-commerce on people’s daily lives in China and pick and choose what they think they can use and apply in their own countries.

These participants are identified as “future architects of the New Economy” who will become game changers, educators, enablers and opinion leaders as they promote the digital transformation of their economies through the creation and adoption of e-commerce.

Such a mandate is in line with the Alibaba’s mission of helping small businesses around the world to be self-sufficient and self-reliant in expanding capabilities and become part of the mainstream economy through the power of e-commerce and the latest technology.

Alibaba’s global strategy is not to globalize Alibaba’s business,” said Ma in a lecture to the participants. “Our wish is to globalize e-commerce, making sure every country joins forces in building up the infrastructure.

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