About 500 young African entrepreneurs will benefit from training by giant e-commerce firm Alibaba Group and other Chinese companies in a partnership with African governments announced this week by Alibaba founder Jack Ma in Nairobi.
The eligible youth will travel to China for training on e-commerce and Internet technologies.
The programme, to be implemented in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) and various learning institutions will also see Chinese business experts train the youth in African countries.
Mr Ma, who was on his maiden Africa visit, asked entrepreneurs to take advantage of technological innovations and the massive potential of the Internet to build businesses and solve the continent’s day-to-day challenges.
“I believe 80-90 per cent of businesses in the future will be online. Business is about solving problems; entrepreneurs should think about how the Internet can solve African problems”
Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said that Kenya is investing heavily in technological infrastructure to grow e-commerce.
“We are creating a single digital market in Africa, where we can reach more than a billion people. We are building significant infrastructure to enable that,” Mr Mucheru said.
The Chinese billionaire praised Kenya’s ICT infrastructure and urged the youth to use it to trade with the world.
“I am impressed with the Internet speeds in Kenya. The speeds here are faster than in the United States,” he said.
China’s influence in Africa has been growing, with a recent McKinsey & Company report showing that China is now Africa’s most important economic partner, with total goods trade standing at $188 billion as at 2015.
Mr Ma said that he is more interested in helping African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses than building an empire on the continent.
“We want to make sure that wherever we go we build companies for the locals, not for us. I don’t want to sell things to you guys, I want to help you sell things to the world.”
The Alibaba Group is ranked as the 5th largest Internet company in the world, and has created 33 million jobs in China.
Mr Ma is the Unctad special adviser for youth entrepreneurship and small businesses. He was accompanied by Unctad secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi and 38 Chinese billionaires, including Internet tycoon Bob Xu, Alibaba’s founding partner Lucy Peng and real estate tycoon Huang Youlong.
“Together, we will reach out to communities that feel left behind in today’s global economy with a message of hope and self-empowerment,” Dr Kituyi said.