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Ethiopia eyes co-op with Alibaba to promote digital economy

Thursday August 15, 2019

The Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology on Wednesday announced cooperation with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on building its digital economy sector.

This came after the Ethiopian Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria met with Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group at the Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, China, the ministry said on Wednesday.

"Great discussion with Jack Ma on building Ethiopian Digital Economy," Mekuria said in a social media post after his visit to the headquarters of the Alibaba Group.

Mekuria noted the huge importance and "highest priority" the Ethiopian government gives to investments in the digital transformation.

The high-level Ethiopian delegation's visit to the Alibaba headquarters envisaged "to usher speedy deliverables in the sector," Mekuria said.

The visit by the Ethiopian delegation led by the minister of innovation and technology came a few months after Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's visit to the headquarters of Alibaba in Hangzhou.

Ahmed's meeting with Jack Ma in April was also the second meeting between the two since Ahmed took office in April 2018, following the first meeting of Ahmed and Ma during the World Economic Forum (WEF) that was held in Davos, Switzerland in January this year.

According to the Office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Jack Ma, during his discussions with the Ethiopian premier, announced his company's plan on a potential investment in a tech city in Ethiopia.

"Jack Ma expressed he has been inspired by the reforms that have been undertaken, confirming that Ethiopia is now a key strategic partner which he will visit this year," the Ethiopian PM's Office had said in a statement that followed the meeting.

Billene Seyoum, Spokeswoman for the Ethiopian PM, also told Xinhua recently the Ethiopian government's keen interest to attract capital and expertise from the Alibaba Group on top of the already strong economic ties between Ethiopia and China.

"There is currently a lot of Chinese investment in Ethiopia," Seyoum said, adding "The Ethiopian Prime Minister headed to Hangzhou to explore ways of cooperation between Ethiopia and successful Chinese technology firms including Alibaba to further encourage Chinese firms to invest in Ethiopia."

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Ambassador to China Teshome Toga Chanaka also on Monday disclosed Jack Ma's scheduled visit to the East African country in November at the invitation of the Ethiopian prime minister.

According to Toga, the current visit by a high-level Ethiopian delegation to the Alibaba Group's headquarter in China is part of a "special tailored training designed for Ethiopian officials."

Amid Alibaba Group's keen interest to promote digital economy in Africa, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) also recently announced partnership with Chinese digital financial giant Ant Financial - an affiliate of the Alibaba Group - to promote financial inclusion across the continent.

ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe, who stressed the importance of digital financial inclusion platforms for Africa's future development, underscored the positive protects working in partnership with Ant Financial, mainly in the digital financial arena, the ECA revealed on Monday.

"We are bringing Ant Financial, which has the largest platform for financial inclusion and assists people with very small financial capacity to be involved in the society," Songwe said during her meeting with a high-level delegation from Ant Financial at the ECA headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

Noting that Ant Financial runs one of the world's largest online payment platforms, valued at 150 billion U.S. dollars, Songwe also underscored that Africa has an "opportunity to leapfrog technology for social, financial and political inclusion" by working with the Chinese giant.

Ant Financial CEO Jing Xiandong also said that his company serves over 650 million people on a daily basis and that the company's vast reach has involved over the years.

"We have expanded well beyond China and are recording tremendous success in our effort to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in many other countries such as India, the Philippines and more," Jing said.


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