Alibaba Business School and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently brought together 24 Africa-based entrepreneurs to participate in the inaugural eFounders Initiative.
The initiative is the first step to fulfill the commitment Jack Ma made as the UNCTAD Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business to help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries over the next five years. The Initiative aims to help small businesses succeed in their home markets and beyond by leveraging the power of technology.
“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,” says Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD. “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.”
The two dozen participants were selected from more than 700 applicants with all the participants being current pioneers in their respective fields, varying from mobile payment, big data, retail, logistics, and others.
After graduating, each of them will commit to applying the program’s learnings to their own business objectives and to transferring their know-how to others to improve the e-commerce infrastructure of their country.
The young e-commerce pioneers travelled from seven African countries to attend the program at Alibaba’s global headquarters in Hangzhou and learn from China’s experience in building an e-commerce ecosystem.
The two-week intensive course included capacity-building in 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. The entrepreneurs also had the opportunity to experience this year’s annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival and attend a private meeting with Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma.