Alibaba gives Rwan­dan star­tups a leg up for farm­ing in­no­va­tion

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business - XIN­HUA

KIGALI — A startup hub on the fourth floor of a com­mer­cial build­ing in Rwan­dan cap­i­tal city Kigali is where Dioscore Shikama in­cu­bates his agritech e-com­merce com­pany.

The 26-year-old set up a tar­get to serve global farm­ers after par­tic­i­pat­ing in a train­ing pro­gram for e-com­merce busi­ness founders pro­vided by China’s e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba in China in Novem­ber 2017.

Founded in 2016, AgriGo Ltd pro­vides farm­ers with ad­vi­sory ser­vices via mo­bile and al­lows them to keep records of farm­ing costs through its elec­tronic plat­form AgriGo.

AgriGo also plans to launch a mar­ket­place ser­vice next year, where farm­ers can post their har­vests and buy­ers can se­lect farm­ing prod­ucts.

Con­sid­er­ing the fact that many farm­ers in Rwanda do not have smart­phones but only have fea­ture phones, AgriGo ba­si­cally op­er­ates based on SMS and USSD, or un­struc­tured sup­ple­men­tary ser­vice data, while AgriGo’s part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies use AgriGo’s smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to farm­ers.

Alibaba’s train­ing pro­gram eFounders Fel­low­ship, cre­ated to find and em­power 1,000 plat­form builders who can lever­age Alibaba’s ex­pe­ri­ence in China, opened his vi­sion, Shikama said.

The two-week course pro­vides first-hand ex­po­sure to and learn­ing about e-com­merce in­no­va­tions from China and around the world that en­abled growth and a more in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment model for all.

The pro­gram mo­ti­vates him to “act­ing lo­cally, but think­ing glob­ally”, Shikama said. “When we de­velop our plat­form, we con­sider farm­ers in Brazil, China and other ar­eas in the world, who were not ap­plied to be­fore I went to China,” he said.

The course also helps the young en­tre­pre­neur know how to de­velop a team from a startup to a big­ger com­pany and gives him a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of data.

For ex­am­ple, Alibaba’s on­line pay­ment plat­form Ali­pay in­spires him to have an idea of a pay­ment so­lu­tion for farm­ers, by which buy­ers can pay through two-di­men­sional bar­codes, or QR code, to farm­ers’ bank ac­counts, he said.

“Alibaba is bring­ing in ex­pe­ri­ence and skills trans­fer,” he said.

Alibaba not only pro­vides train­ing to busi­ness founders but also e-com­merce ed­u­ca­tors.

An e-com­merce club to pre­pare stu­dents for on­line busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and to im­pact them the knowl­edge of start­ing e-busi­ness and trade on­line has been set up at the Univer­sity of Tourism, Tech­nol­ogy and Busi­ness Stud­ies of Rwanda (which is known as the UTB), after its three teach­ers at­tended Alibaba’s train­ing pro­gram for ed­u­ca­tors.

Jean Bap­tiste Mban­z­abugabo, dean of the Fac­ulty of Busi­ness and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy of the UTB, to­gether with his two col­leagues in Au­gust at­tended Alibaba’s Global eCom­merce Tal­ent Pro­gram, an in­ten­sive learn­ing ses­sion for train­ers and pro­fes­sors who are look­ing to de­velop an e-com­merce course in their home coun­try.

After com­plet­ing the pro­gram held in Rwanda, Mban­z­abugabo pro­posed a UTB’s global e-com­merce tal­ent pro­gram to the man­age­ment of the univer­sity, which seeks to bridge the skills gap of young pro­fes­sion­als to meet em­ploy­a­bil­ity and en­trepreneur­ship needs of Rwan­dan economies, busi­ness and en­trepreneurs, while shap­ing young dig­i­tal tal­ents and small and medium en­ter­prises to bet­ter un­der­stand the e-com­merce model and ecosys­tem, as well as op­er­a­tional, busi­ness an­a­lyt­i­cal and en­trepreneur­ship skills.

“Alibaba’s train­ing for ed­u­ca­tors comes at the right time as the world is go­ing high to­day when elec­tronic (uti­liza­tion) comes as num­ber one,” said Mban­z­abugabo.

Trained ed­u­ca­tors are able to in­struct busi­ness founders who are not able to af­ford premises to have an on­line plat­form, he said. They can also im­pact stu­dents with busi­ness and IT skills to have en­trepreneur­ship skills of start­ing an on­line busi­ness, he added.

E-com­merce is just get­ting started in Rwanda, but it will cre­ate more jobs for young peo­ple, open the mar­ket for Rwan­dan sell­ers and in­tro­duce Rwan­dan prod­ucts to the world, said Shikama.

“I’m hop­ing it will help ex­port, so that it can bridge the gap be­tween im­port and ex­port,” he said.

E-com­merce pro­vides peo­ple who can’t af­ford set­ting up premises and in­fra­struc­ture for do­ing busi­ness with op­por­tu­nity to start an on­line busi­ness, said Mban­z­abugabo.

It also en­ables busi­ness peo­ple to ex­pand their busi­ness bound­aries and “meet po­ten­tial cus­tomers from all over the world”, he said.

NIU JING / FOR CHINA DAILY

Rwanda Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame (cen­ter), ac­com­pa­nied by Alibaba founder Jack Ma (left), ex­am­ines a cof­fee prod­uct at an event for the launch of the World Elec­tronic Trade Plat­form in Kigali, the cap­i­tal of Rwanda.

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