UN agency head praises Jack Ma for helping African e-commerce

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The Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Mukhisa Kituyi said that from 2004 UNCTAD has been charged within the UN system for managing the digital economy, monitoring it and making policy suggestions for developing countries. Image courtesy: CNBC
The Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Mukhisa Kituyi said that from 2004 UNCTAD has been charged within the UN system for managing the digital economy, monitoring it and making policy suggestions for developing countries. Image courtesy: CNBC

The head of a United Nations agency told the 2018 Public Forum of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Tuesday how China’s Jack Ma helped his organisation bridge the digital divide with e-commerce entrepreneurial training.

The Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Mukhisa Kituyi said that from 2004 UNCTAD has been charged within the UN system for managing the digital economy, monitoring it and making policy suggestions for developing countries.

He noted that with the founder of Alibaba Jack Ma as UNCTAD’s special adviser on electronic commerce, they started an initiative with 40 young internet entrepreneurs.

Ma was at the session representing the Electronic World Trade Platform and had helped get these 40 young people to the Alibaba Campus in Hangzhou, China with training in how to build electronic market visibility.

“So far we have taken three classes from Africa,” said Kituyi, the second class from East Asia, which will be followed by groups from the Middle East and West Asia and later Latin America.

Praising Ma, Kituyi said, “We are showing how a big corporation and a public organization like UNCTAD can come together and deliver on the entrepreneurial front for young adults.”

At the same session of the forum, Malawi’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Robert Dufter Salama, said that while many believe the internet offers opportunities to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the “biggest challenge we face is the digital divide.”

“There is not electricity everywhere and 62 percent of people in LDCs do not have access to computers,” said Salama.

Other factors inhibiting them are literacy and no competition with providers of internet technology services along with underdeveloped postal systems.

Ma stressed that his business had started in a part of China where infrastructure was not developed.

He said, “In a lot of African countries you have mobile phones. The mobile phone is better than a computer.”

He also noted that in developing e-commerce two or three years are needed, and not a few weeks, but with people being buyers the roots of e-commerce are always present.

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