The first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) in Africa was launched Wednesday in Kigali, opening doors for small businesses in Africa to take part in cross-border electronic trade.
The platform is a result of a partnership between the Government of Rwanda and Alibaba Group.
During the launch held yesterday, Rwanda and Alibaba Group signed three agreements to facilitate electronic trade in Rwanda and the rest of Africa
President Paul Kagame officiated at the landmark ceremony which was attended by the Alibaba Group founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma.
The agreements signed in Kigali are intended to strengthen cooperation in support of Rwanda's economic development by promoting policy innovation, enabling cross-border trade of Rwandan products to Chinese consumers, facilitating tourism to Rwanda, and providing capacity building to empower the growth of Rwanda's digital economy.
After the signing of the agreements, Ma described the event as a "historic day" because the initiative will revolutionise how Rwandans do business, starting from how they sell their top-notch coffee or handcrafts to how they sell their tourism services to the world, including China.
"We are making new rules for the future, we are making improvements for the world trade," he said, calling on Rwandan businesses to take advantage of the platforms.
"We have to make things a reality; whether this agreement is good or not will depend on the results," he said.
Under the three agreements, Alibaba will work with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to help Rwandan SMEs sell their products, including coffee and handcrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba's online marketplaces.
With more than half a billion consumers, Alibaba is the world's largest online commerce company and home to leading cross-border marketplaces where Chinese consumers look to find the highest quality products from around the world.
Several brands of Rwandan single origin coffee are already available for sale on Alibaba's Tmall Global platform.
Following the agreements, Alibaba's travel services platform called Fliggy will promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences and a destination pavilion where Chinese consumers can learn about visiting the country, including its beautiful natural parks, through engaging video content.
Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial will also share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy.
President Kagame equally urged Rwandan entrepreneurs to take advantage of the platforms offered by Alibaba to expand their trade.
"Rwandan producers will be able to sell directly to a much larger set of customers," he said, explaining that it will improve both productivity and profitability for Rwandan traders.
He added: "I want to challenge Rwandan companies and young people, men and women, to take full advantage of this technology".
Under the agreements, Alibaba will also provide capacity building to academics, policymakers and entrepreneurs on how to grow a digital economy.
Rwanda becomes the first country in Africa to establish an eWTP partnership and the goal is to spread it across the continent.
"I am delighted that Rwanda is the first eWTP partner in Africa, and I look forward to the development of an innovative digital economy here," Ma said, expressing excitement and thanking Rwanda for piloting the project on the continent.
RDB's Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi, said that the partnership between Rwanda and Alibaba will change people's lives for the better and that the Rwandan government will continue to leverage the digital economy to support the country's exporters, local producers, and artisans.
"We have already seen tremendous attention from Chinese consumers on Alibaba's platforms in high-quality Rwandan products such as our top-tier single estate coffee, and are confident that local products and travel experiences will continue to receive interest and support from the more than half a billion consumers on Alibaba's platforms," she said.
Alibaba Group is a Chinese multinational conglomerate specialising in e-commerce, retail, Internet, Artificial Intelligence and technology.
With the company reporting revenues of US$39.9 billion for the last fiscal, Alibaba Group Holding remains the world's largest e-commerce platform operator.