Photo taken on June 28, 2019 shows a little boy having fun at the exhibition site of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province. (Xinhua/Xue Yuge)
CHANGSHA, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese businessman Yang Tao has an ambition -- to build the best e-commerce platform in Africa.
The 36-year-old from central China's Hunan Province worked in Africa in 2012 when he found the retail industry there was mostly in forms of village markets, with "fewer commodities and higher prices."
"Why not introduce the prosperous e-commerce platform to Africa?" Yang said.
In 2014, Yang founded Africa's online shopping mall, Kilimall, in Kenya. "Clicking on the Kilimall website, African consumers can buy more than 10 million different products online, with guaranteed quality and 10-20 percent lower prices than those in the local markets, including electronics, fashion products and home appliances," Yang said.
With 73 percent mobile Internet penetration and more than 450 million Internet users in Africa, mobile payment in some African countries is becoming more popular, according to Yang.
"No one could ignore the trends, and we should leverage digitalization to realize the new possibility for Africa and China. E-commerce is a new option to accelerate economic growth and create employment," he said.
After five years of development, Kilimall now has 5 million African users and handles tens of thousands of orders every day. "The annual business volume can reach over 72 million U.S. dollars," the CEO said.
It has established operations in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, helping more than 5,000 sellers in Africa to do business online and having created over 10,000 jobs.
Yang has an even bigger goal of expanding the online shopping network across the whole continent by end of 2022.
Leveraging the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo which opened Thursday in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, Kilimall has been upgraded to Kili.co, an online expo platform for cooperation and mutual exchange, which is expected to serve nearly 500 million Chinese and African customers as well as 1 million enterprises in the next five years.
"On Kili.co, Chinese consumers can also buy African products such as flowers and nuts, which they will receive in just two to five days," Yang said.
China has been the largest trading partner of Africa for 10 consecutive years. In 2018, trade volume between China and Africa amounted to 204.2 billion dollars, up 20 percent year on year. China's direct investment to the continent has increased by 1.5 billion dollars in the first five months this year, up 20 percent year on year.
In recent years, amid growing bilateral trade and booming development of the e-commerce industry, China's enterprises are actively tapping the African market and serving as a bridge for closer cooperation.
China's e-commerce giant Alibaba and the government of Rwanda launched Alibaba's Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) last November to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment and enable small- and medium-sized enterprises to participate in cross-border e-commerce.
Despite many difficulties, including the almost zero e-commerce culture and the prevalence of traditional phones over smartphones in Africa, Ren Yuan, senior manager of Alibaba's Global Business Group, is still optimistic.
"We are at a good age. TECNO Mobile, a Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, has offered high quality and cheap products, lowering the bar for smartphones in Africa, and 4G base stations built by China's tech giant Huawei have provided stable network coverage," he said.
Charles Kayonga, Rwandan Ambassador to China, said at the expo that the country's cooperation with Alibaba not only helped them sell products, but it also taught local people how to find the right market and how to make a living relying on themselves through various training programs.
With steady expansion, Yang's Kilimall is however facing competition from local e-commerce platforms such as Jumia, sometimes referred to as "African Amazon".
"China's products are widely welcomed and recognized in Africa, but many Chinese brands have no sales channels in Africa, which gives us an opportunity to cooperate in the market,", said Jumia CEO Jeremy Hodara, who last month visited Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai to meet with suppliers there.
"We hope to work with Chinese merchants to make the African market bigger and stronger," he said.