Rwanda students on path to be e-commerce elites in China


Twenty-two Rwandan freshmen, majoring in e-commerce at Hangzhou Normal University, just finished the last lesson of their first semester.

“Every student needs to go through an interview before being recruited. When they were asked about e-commerce in the beginning, their concept was vague,” said Li Hujun with the Alibaba eWTP Program.

Dianah Rutayisire Mahoro, 19, found a new world during her stay in China. What impressed her most are the omnipresent QR codes.

“Just a simple scan and you pay for anything. I would like to promote online payment and QR codes in Rwanda to improve the shopping experience in my homeland,” said Rutayisire Mahoro.

“I learned how e-commerce businesses are operated in China, but now my challenge is how to combine it with the local business environment in Rwanda,” said Theogene Tuyishimire, whose Chinese name is Yingxiong, or literally hero.

“Stores can earn an extra 4 percent using mobile digital payments in China,” said Tuyishimire. “But in Rwanda, only about 30 percent of people have ever used online payment because a service fee of about 10 percent of the transfer amount will be levied.”

“I want to figure out an approach to lower it down to 3 percent,” said the 21-year-old.

The four-year undergraduate e-commerce program is part of a cooperation agreement between the Rwandan government and Alibaba under the latter’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) initiative.

Rwanda and Alibaba launched the eWTP in October 2018, making Rwanda the first African country to launch the platform.

The curriculum is tailored for Rwandan students with courses including Chinese language, digital economy, principles of economics, international trade, digital finance, cross-border e-commerce operation and digital marketing and management, among others.

After four months of study, Rwandan students have become more and more accustomed to life in China. They have already been proficient in the use of multiple online shopping apps. Many of them have been used to purchase clothes, shoes, food, daily necessities and even laptops online.

“Look at me,” said Tuyishimire, pointing at his suit jacket. “I bought it online on Single’s Day (Nov. 11). Its quality is just as good as I thought.”

Jason Xiao, the operation advisor of Alibaba’s office of the academic committee of the economy, expressed his expectations to Rwandan students. “The purpose of this program is that we want them all to be job creators, not job seekers, in Rwanda.”

The program is already taking effect. Tuyishimire has come up with an ambitious vision of starting an e-commerce program this March to help farmers in his hometown sell agricultural products online.

“Last week, I watched the livestream of Rwanda’s ambassador to China and a Taobao anchor. A total of 2,000 packs of Rwanda coffee were sold in just 10 minutes,” said Tuyishimire. “It was totally out of my imagination. More surprisingly, the online platform allows growers to earn an extra 4 U.S. dollars per kilogram of coffee.”

“I want to open an online store when I go back and contribute to the development of the digital economy in Rwanda,” said Rutayisire Mahoro. Enditem

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