Niger eyes cooperation with China's Alibaba

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/27 20:08:40

E-commerce can promote exports of agricultural products

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou (right) and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang hold a gift that Issoufou brought for Alibaba. Issoufou paid a visit to Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou on Sunday and during the visit expressed Niger's wish to cooperate with Alibaba. Photo: Courtesy of Alibaba

Niger wholeheartedly looks forward to cooperating with Alibaba Group Holding, not only to boost agricultural product exports with the help of e-commerce but also to take part in training programs provided by the company, said Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou. 

He commented after a brief visit to Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province on Sunday, accompanied by Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang. 

During the visit, Mahamadou Issoufou heard an introduction from Alibaba staff about the e-commerce giant's business highlights. He also listened to a Chinese song played by Alibaba's voice-activated Tmall Genie, a popular smart home device in Chinese households.

"This display tour, as well as the introduction of Alibaba executives, strengthened our determination to cooperate with Alibaba...We know that Rwanda is one of Alibaba's partners in Africa. We also know that a delegation from Togo will soon take training courses from Alibaba. We want to be the third African country to be a partner with Alibaba," he said. 

He also asked which Alibaba executive to get in touch with to register for the training classes and discuss cooperation. 

In January, Rwanda sent a delegation of government officials to take training courses at Alibaba's headquarters. Alibaba is also helping the country sell coffee on Alibaba's renowned Tmall platform. 

Mahamadou Issoufou said he hopes Alibaba's e-commerce platforms can help Niger export more of its specialized agricultural products, like onions, to China. 

China mostly imports agricultural products and uranium from Niger, while exporting items like fabrics, mechanical and electrical products, Song Wei, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation who focuses on the study of Africa, told the Global Times on Monday. 

In the first four months this year, China's US dollar-denominated trade with Niger surged by 41.6 percent on a yearly basis, with exports increasing by 59.9 percent on a yearly basis and imports from Niger rising by 34.5 percent, customs data showed. 

"Trade between Niger and China is growing as collaboration penetrates deeper. For example, there's some level of economic cooperation and exchange between Niger and North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. At the same time, China is also creating different platforms, like the China International Import Expo and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which facilitate such trade," He Wenping, a research fellow of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Experts said that with trade on the rise between China and many African countries, China's burgeoning digital economy can act as a booster. 

"Many people think that Africa, with its industrialization just taking off, should have little to do with the digital economy. But Africa's internet economy is developing at a stunning speed. Many popular internet services in China like online shopping and ride-hailing are also starting to get active in Africa," He said. 

Mahamadou Issoufou on Sunday also expressed the country's ambition to "gain from the new wave of technical revolutions in the world." He said that Niger has invested a lot in optical fiber networks while hoping to achieve internet popularization via satellite. 

Song said boosting e-commerce cooperation between China and Africa can reduce the cost of bilateral trade because it cuts out many intermediate links. It can also boost intra-regional trade with the existing Continental Free Trade Area in Africa. 

Experts also said that Africa offers great development potential and is a very important market for China. 

"Like Niger, it is still at the stage of economic takeoff, but that also means it has relatively large development potential and opportunities," Song said.

It is important for China's to nurture Africa's markets, particularly against the background of the trade dispute with the US, experts say.


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