Rwandan startups get e-Commerce tips from Alibaba

Rwandan entrepreneurs who were part of the 25 Africans selected to participate in the inaugural eFounders Initiative Entrepreneurship Training Programme organised by Alibaba Business School have said that they are ready to disrupt African e-Commerce markets.
Jack Ma.
Jack Ma.

Rwandan entrepreneurs who were part of the 25 Africans selected to participate in the inaugural eFounders Initiative Entrepreneurship Training Programme organised by Alibaba Business School have said that they are ready to disrupt African e-Commerce markets.

The entrepreneurs, who took a two-week course in Chinese city of Hangzhou, say they had enormous learning experience from Jack Ma, who is one of the world’s billionaires.

Speaking to Saturday Times from China, Dioscore Shikama said they have learnt the skills that he believes will effectively advance and develop an e-Commerce ecosystem not only in Rwanda but on the continent as well.

“This was quite different from other trainings I had attended. It was more of the hands-on experience, learning how Alibaba has transformed Chinese economy. We are ready to replicate the lessons,” he said.

The entrepreneurs graduated Thursday and are expected to return in coming days and apply what they acquired.

Shikama is the owner of AgriGO, a startup that assists farmer to improve yield by availing the right, modern and personalised best practices.

Paola Heza Kirezi, another local entrepreneur who has attended the programme, said spending time with people who are dealing with a large online consumer population has been important to her.

“I learnt a lot about emerging fields, including big data and how Alibaba is leveraging on that by building tailored platforms to lift everyone from poverty and contribute to the development of China and other countries,” she said.

Lessons from Alibaba

Alibaba is tapping into big data. The online giant has information about its 450 million active users across not just e-Commerce, but also entertainment, travel, payments, and mapping, among others.

The firm uses the data to manage customer demand, preferences and other consumer behaviors in order to enhance their experiences.

Kirezi said she is eager to share all she has learnt with fellow entrepreneurs and to exploit the advantages of e-Commerce and the new avenues it is creating on the continent.

Kirezi works with Mergims, a local technology start-up that connects Diaspora people to their African counterparts by enabling them to pay for utilities, among other expenses.

Pikkostores is another startup that represented Rwanda. Pikkostores is an online shopping and selling platform providing customers shopping experience and retailers with simple and direct access to the largest customer base in east Africa.

The eFounders Programme is organised jointly with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Ma, who is UNCTAD special adviser for youth rntrepreneurship and small business, was in Kigali earlier this year for YouthConnekt Africa Summit.

During his trip, Ma pledged to support African startups and work with African universities, governments and entrepreneurs to develop training programmes in areas such as e-Commerce, artificial intelligence, and big data and cloud computing.

The eFounders Initiative Entrepreneurship Training Programme includes a two-week course at the Alibaba Business School and will be taking African based entrepreneurs learn from e-commerce companies Alibaba, Taobao.com and Tmall.com.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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