The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma witnessed the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the Ethiopian Government and Alibaba establishing an eWTP Hub in Ethiopia.
The eWTP (electronic world trade platform) Hub is intended to enable cross-border trade, provide smart logistics and fulfillment services, assist Ethiopian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach China and other markets, and provide talent training.
The event was also witnessed by Alibaba Group Director and Ant Financial Services Group Chairman and CEO Eric Jing. Ethiopia aims to build a dynamic and growing digital economy that contributes significantly to overall economic growth in the country.
eWTP is an Alibaba-led multi-stakeholder global initiative promoting public-private dialogue in order to support more inclusive global trade which uses technology and policy innovation to provide greater opportunities for SMEs, women and youth.
Ethiopia is the second country in Africa to establish an eWTP hub, and this new partnership builds upon the success of other eWTP partnerships in Asia (China and Malaysia), Europe (Belgium) and Africa (Rwanda) over the past two years. As the number of eWTP Hubs increases, it is hoped that trade will increase between the Hubs, providing new opportunities for their merchants in the global economy.
Since it was first proposed by Ma in 2016, the eWTP has been recognized by the G20, as well as adopted by China, Malaysia, Rwanda and Belgium. Alibaba expects that trade between the hubs will increase as the number of eWTP hubs increases. The goal is to allow all businesses - both big international companies and SMEs - to participate in cross-border commerce.
Ethiopia's Minister for Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria said, "Today's signing of the Ethiopia eWTP Hub is an important step in the development of a digital economy in Ethiopia. This engagement will greatly contribute to trade facilitation and open markets to SMEs not only in Ethiopia but in the wider region. We look forward to continue working with Alibaba Group and CCCI to realize the objectives of the platform which has the potential to transform the lives of many."
"It is an honor to partner with the government of Ethiopia to establish the eWTP Ethiopia Hub," said Eric Jing, Alibaba Group Director and Ant Financial Services Group Chairman and CEO. "We will continue to support the creation of a more inclusive, digitally-enabled global economy, where small businesses can participate in global trade. We look forward to working together with entrepreneurs and SMEs from Ethiopia and other African nations to seize the opportunities provided by the digital era."
The first major initiative for the eWTP partnership in Ethiopia will be the development of a multifunction digital trade hub to serve as a gateway for Ethiopian products to China, a center for cross-border e-commerce and trade within Africa, and a training center. China Commodities City International (CCCI) will partner with Alibaba in the development of the eWTP Hub. The Alibaba Business School will implement the capacity building and training portion of the partnership which consists of a number of programs, including specialized programs for Ethiopian entrepreneurs, business leaders, and university lecturers.
The vision of eWTP is to develop new partnerships, technology and policies to enable more inclusive global trade. The eWTP initiative was accepted as a major policy recommendation of the Business 20 (B20) and officially included in the 2016 G20 Summit Leaders' Communique.
Speaking during the ceremony, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma said that Ethiopia needed the four "Es" in order to connect its economy with global markets: education, e-government, e-frastructure and entrepreneurs. Education is critical for any uptick in economic strength, he said, while governance handled online is more efficient and more transparent. In addition, larger and faster internet networks were essential for business today, and entrepreneurship was a driving force for job creation in any economy, Ma added.
"Today is the beginning of the digital period for Ethiopia, we need to cultivate entrepreneurship, we need to cultivate the sprint of innovation, driving for speed, results and efficiency," Ma said.
"Africa never lacks talents - Ethiopia has 30 million young people," Ma said, adding that the continent wasn't short on resources or opportunity, either. "What we lack is a group of pioneers that can explore the future and believes in the future."