The story Ali Baba and the forty thieves is a popular one we read while growing up. Today, the Ali Baba a lot of us are familiar with is not that of the story books but multi-billion dollar e-commerce site founded by Jack Ma. Jack Ma recently visited Africa last week in the company of 38 Chinese billionaires. And no, he didn’t make a stop in Nigeria like Mack Zuckerberg. He was in East Africa to visit Rwanda and Kenya. Jack Ma spoke at the YouthConnekt Africa summit in Rwanda on Friday, where he announced three major projects for Rwanda. The summit was organized in collaboration with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Ma, was in Kenya Thursday where he addressed a group of 500 aspiring business leaders at the University of Nairobi. He also met with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi where they discussed cooperation in supporting small businesses in the country.
While some may wonder why Ma who is also a special adviser for the UN on youth entrepreneurship didn’t stop in Nigeria, the truth is Nigeria is not a country in Africa that Ma and his billionaire friends can ignore. Here’s why-
- Nigeria is a country made up of almost 200 million people. That’s a huge market that Ma’se-commerce platform is already tapping from and can’t ignore. Rwanda on the other hand is made up of just 11.92 people, less than the population of Lagos state
- In Nigeria, though the CAC is currently on strike, Acting President Osibanjo has tried to revamp the CAC with registration online and shorter time lines. Admittedly, it takes 6 hours to register a company in Rwanda. Nigeria is however on its way to such greatness.
- Rwanda has incubators like K-Lab, Think by Tigo and The Office. Nigeria also has quite a few of them like ideahub, Cchub in Lagos and Ken Saro wiwa Hub in Port-Harcourt
- Nigeria currently has 92 million mobile lines connected to the internet according to recent releases from the NCC, Nigeria’s telecommunications regulatory agency. Kenya and Rwanda have 38 million and 9 million mobile lines, respectively
- According to Ernst & Young’s 2016 Africa attractiveness program, east African countries have the highest share of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, achieving 26.3 percent of total projects. However, Nigeria still remains the largest economy in Africa according to a 2017 World Bank report
Notwithstanding these, Nigeria needs to do more to attract such investors. While we may have had our own fair share of Chinese investors, it can never be too much especially in the digital age. Kenya is fast becoming an attractive competitor for startups and ICT. Rwanda is also increasingly an African destination of business. Nigeria needs to do a lot to remain at par. Jack ma promised to visit the country in 2014. We need to make that a reality sooner than later