Alibaba looks to Africa for new ecommerce opportunities

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Getting profits from Africa is a new horizon for numerous businesses. But it isn’t always easy. The Chinese are leading the way online and offline and investing enthusiastically in infrastructure such as roads and railways. Jack Ma has been a clarion for online selling in Africa and Asia and thinks the possible spoils are significant.

In particular he has recently identified the key problem for ecommerce to be a lack of infrastructure and effective logistics. Specifically, delivery is a problem. But he thinks he can plug that gap and profit from it.

The opportunity in ecommerce in Africa lies in the fact that Africa is lacking logistics, infrastructure and payment systems.
– Jack Ma, Alibaba

Of course, as was noted last week by pundits in the British press, China has been looking at Africa with interest for quite some time and has been making significant investments there. When the UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited recently she argued that the UK was well-placed be a key economic partner with the continent (which has nearly a billion people and a GDP roughly equal to Germany).

But is the UK, or indeed any nation, really in the right position to help out any African nation? It’s a moot question. Jack Ma may be a little ahead of the game because he has set aside a $10 million fund for African entrepreneurs. He says that soon he will also soon visit Nigeria to assess the opportunities. In particular he is critical of the tax and regulatory environment across Africa, which he considers to be detrimental to to start ups and new businesses who want to develop in Africa.

Naturally, any generalisation is essentially unhelpful because it is an enormously diverse, populous and varied region. But it is notable that the continent has yet to excel in the ecommerce field: Amazon in particular is notably absent. Jack Ma clearly recognises the potential but hasn’t quite yet explained how he will be exploiting it.

Do you already deal with Africa? Specifically, would you sell on an African marketplace? And if not, why not?


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