In July, Jack Ma of Alibaba and a host of other Chinese businesspeople visited Kenya and a dual mission to both uncover potential business opportunities in the country and to inspire Kenyan business people and help them access the Chinese market. Now over one month later, some of the fruits of his and his colleagues visit are beginning to bloom according to China Daily.
As part of the visit, Jack Ma was asked by UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi to try and inspire and help Kenyan businesses. “I have discussed with Jack Ma and others that I would like us not only to grow African enterprises but also to start raising voices that a special market access waiver for produce from Africa, particularly from small business, is needed. Effort should be made to encourage young Kenyan entrepreneurs to access the Chinese market just like the Chinese are accessing local markets. Our challenge is not finding agents to import Chinese goods, I am looking for people who are willing to sell African goods to China.”
One such businessman is clothes seller Jane Kimonge from Nairobi. Now sourcing her stock through Alibaba, she is now making much more profit per sale. “Initially I used to get my clothes from Uganda where most sellers buy from… Alibaba is way cheaper and the profit margin much higher,” she said.
Kimunge wishes she had found the ecommerce platform earlier:
“I feel bad that for over 11 years, I would have made much more than I made, I would be very far now but I am happy I now know better. All I need is a laptop, internet to get rolling … One of the reasons I like Alibaba is the convenience and its wide range of choices on offer,” said Kamunge.
She expects her $3,000 order, her biggest in a long time, to arrive into the country in a fortnight. “With December round the corner, I had to make a big order since most Kenyans now shop for Christmas towards the end of November which is less than two months away,” she said.
The Alibaba ecommerce platform has also been the inspiration behind another Kenyan business. John Ngetich first came across Alibaba three years ago and has not looked back since. Following years of trying to get a white collar job, he eventually decided to buy some stock on Alibaba. He has since grown it into a successful business.
“I call it (Alibaba) my theater of dreams, since until now I don’t think I would have gotten any of the jobs I had applied for and anyway, no employer will be willing to pay me what I make from my business.”
Ngetich was further inspired by Ma’s latest visit. “Ma’s story is replete with lessons for millions of Kenyan youth who are complaining about lack of jobs, if you have an idea don’t sleep on it, it took Ma the first step to build Alibaba, which is now helping build millions of businesses like mine,” Ngetich said.