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Alibaba Business School and UNCTAD Train African Entrepreneurs to become Catalysts for Digital Transformation

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29 entrepreneurs from 11 countries in Africa travel to China to participate in intensive eFounders Fellowship course

HANGZHOU, China- Alibaba Business School and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) brought 29 young entrepreneurs from 11 countries across Africa to the Alibaba campus in Hangzhou, China for the third eFounders Fellowship cohort.

The eFounders Fellowship is part of a pledge by Jack Ma, Alibaba Group’s Executive Chairman and UNCTAD Special Adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business, to empower 1,000 entrepreneurs from developing countries in five years. Two hundred of these entrepreneurs will come from Africa, demonstrating Ma’s personal commitment to supporting entrepreneurs from the African continent and helping them to succeed in the digital world. It supports UNCTAD’s and Alibaba’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, which include making sure no one is left behind in the digital economy. Both Jack Ma and Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, spent time with the fellows during their time in Hangzhou.

eFounders Fellows visit Alibaba's Hema "New Retail" Grocery Store

eFounders Fellows visit Alibaba’s Hema “New Retail” Grocery Store

Jack Ma said, “Together with UNCTAD, we want to empower Africa’s young entrepreneurs to not only succeed in their own ventures, but to return home and demonstrate to others how to build inclusive business models for the digital era.”

“With this third cohort of young entrepreneurs, UNCTAD and Alibaba are helping a new generation of business leaders to make the most of the opportunities opened up by the ecommerce revolution,” Dr. Kituyi said.

Fellows were selected through a rigorous application process. All are founders or co-founders of platform-based ventures in the ecommerce, logistics, fintech, big data or tourism industries in Africa.

During the two-week course, fellows experienced first-hand the transformative impact that ecommerce and technology have had on China. When Alibaba was founded back in 1999, the company faced many of the same barriers and lack of infrastructure that entrepreneurs in Africa face today. This makes Alibaba uniquely suited to share its experience and lessons learned with entrepreneurs looking to build technology companies in Africa.

Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma and UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi address the eFounders class /Alibaba Group)

Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma and UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi address the eFounders class /Alibaba Group)

Attendees met with Alibaba executives and local practitioners to learn from their experiences in ecommerce, payments, logistics, cloud computing, marketing, cross-border trade and innovation to identify lessons that can be applied to their own markets. The course covered New Retail and included visits to a Hema Supermarket, Cainiao’s smart warehouse and Rural Taobao’s service stations. Participants also visited partners in Alibaba’s ecosystem and experienced the cashless economy in Hangzhou. Through interactive sessions with UNCTAD and Alibaba representatives, participants also discussed topics such as the gender aspect to global trends of ecommerce.

“The eFounders Fellowship aims to empower young entrepreneurs to be digital champions in their home countries,” said Brian Wong, Vice President of Global Initiatives. “Our goal is to inspire these young business leaders by sharing our story and by showing them the real impact that inclusive business models can make upon people’s daily lives.”

Alibaba previously hosted the inaugural class of African entrepreneurs in November 2017 and Asian entrepreneurs in March 2018. Since their participation in the program, graduates have made transformative strategic shifts in their businesses and have become catalysts for digital transformation in their home countries – raising rounds of investment as well as opening their own training programs. Upon graduation, participants continue to receive formal support from UNCTAD and Alibaba.

“My experience with the eFounders program has shifted my thinking. Before we were focused on pleasing the investors, but now I see the importance of putting our customers first, then my employees, then the investors,” said Andreas Koumato, 26, founder of Mossosouk, an ecommerce platform based in Chad. “Let others win, then later we will gain.”

Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi and UNCTAD staff with the third eFounders Fellowship Cohort Alibaba Group)

Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi and UNCTAD staff with the third eFounders Fellowship Cohort Alibaba Group)

Information about this class of eFounders, by country:

Rwanda:

• Leah Uwihoreye, founder of Golden Thoughts, an ecommerce platform for local manufacturers, primarily female artisans, to sell their products.
• Muhirwa Clement, founder of Uplus Mutual Partners, a fintech company specializing in peer-to-peer mobile payments.
Kenya
• Nancy Amunga, founder of Dana Communication, a logistics platform offering courier services for ecommerce platforms in Africa.
• Caroline Wanjiku, founder of Daproim Africa, a social enterprise that offers affordable volume data management services to research firms, governments and companies. Daproim Africa also provides data management training and job opportunities to university graduates in Africa to help them to develop relevant skill sets.
• Other Kenya based entrepreneurs in this class include Gladys King’ori of ZOA Tech, Caroline Kariuki of Sarai Afrique Fashion House, Mwai Mworia of M-Paya, Alloys Meshack of Sendy, and Daniel Yu of Sokowatch.
Nigeria
• Tochukwu Uwakeme, founder of KemResource, an ecommerce company that connects rural farmers to buyers around the world.
• Chijioke Dozie, founder of OneFi, a fintech company that offers underbanked and unbanked customers in West Africa access to loans and payments through an android app using machine-learning to assess the credit-worthiness of customers in real time.
• Other Nigeria-based entrepreneurs include Malik Babalola of Gloo, and Olugbenga Agboola of Flutterwave.
South Africa
• Arnaud Blanchet, founder of Shopit, an ecommerce company that enables South African mom and pop store owners in townships and rural areas to compare prices at wholesalers and buy at the best price.
• Roy Borole, founder of Thanga, an artificial intelligence studio which develops AI tools to help brands target consumers by helping them tell more compelling stories for use on social media.
• The other South Africa-based entrepreneur is Basson Engelbrecht of Hoorah Online Shops.
Zambia
• Bright Chinyundu, founder of Broadpay, a fintech company which includes Broadpay, a payment system offering money transfers, bill payments and currently developing agent banking services.
• Other Zambia-based entrepreneurs include Chinedu Koggu of ProBASE and Njavwa Mutambo of Musanga.
Egypt
• Hany Girgis, founder of Masry Market, an online platform helping consumers find local alternatives to everyday products at competitive prices while supporting local SMEs.
• The other Egypt-based entrepreneur is Hatem Ayoub of Tripdizer.
Uganda
• David Gonahasa, founder of Roundbob, an online travel and experience booking platform which seeks to help Africa’s growing middle class find affordable travel options.
• Other Uganda-based entrepreneurs are Nielsimms Sangho of Intership and Francis Nkurunungi of Xente.

Others countries:

Algeria: Taoufik Mousselmal of Maisonmaligne.com, an ecommerce platform uses AI tools to feed and optimize its catalogue into different marketplaces (Amazon, Cdiscount), and is envisioning strong sourcing partnership with manufacturers based in North Africa.

Chad: Andreas Koumato of Mossosouk, an ecommerce platform that connects buyers and sellers with a fast home delivery service and innovative local payment methods.
Cameroon: Cedric Atangana of Wecashup, a Pan-African payment platform that enables online merchants to accept all the 155 mobile payment channels available in Africa through a single platform.

Tunisia:

• Sadok Ghanouchi of E-Taxi, a taxi platform that provides service to customers through a digital transportation marketplace.
• Sami Tounsi of Monresto, a last-mile logistics platform connecting customers with local vendors and independent drivers in a one-stop shop marketplace for on demand services.

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.

He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.

“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of State’s (Dowden’s) assertion that the government’s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.

It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.

Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)

 

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.

“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.

Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.

Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.

The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.

“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”

SCALING UP

Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)

 

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 3

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.

BIDEN DEBUT

Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)

 

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