Global Cooperation

Jack Ma plans to reform globalization from the bottom up. Here’s how

Jack Ma has built the most formidable e-commerce business in China. Now he wants to bring bring e-commerce to everyone in the developing world Image: Reuters

Michael Hanley
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Jack Ma wants to turn globalization on its head.

"We believe in globalization,” Ma told the Davos 2019 audience. “But many don’t believe in it because it is not inclusive. How can we improve it? In the last 20 years, globalization was controlled by 60,000 companies worldwide, imagine if we could expand that to 60 million businesses.”

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To that end, Ma has built a platform that will allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to build globalized businesses: "If they have a phone, they can global buy, global sell, global deliver, global pay, and global travel having fun."

That is the vision behind a new platform that Ma's company, Alibaba, has built and launched in Rwanda, as a first step - Electronic World Trade Platform, or eWTP. The initiative is in collaboration with the World Trade Organization and the World Economic Forum, and is supported by the Rwanda government.

The initiative was formally launched at the WTO in December.

Farmers in Rwanda are already selling coffee direct through the platform, which facilitates tariff-free trade for transactions of less than US$1 million. Coffee is already being sold through this platform to Chinese customers, farmers were getting around $8 dollars per kilogram, they are now getting $12 per kilogram.

The Rwandan Government sees it as a way to increase inclusivity - here is President Paul Kagame:

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Jack Ma thinks this is a pioneering methodology for Globalization 4.0: "I have spoken to the WTO and think it needs to be upgraded to the second version, focus on developing countries, focus on young people and entrepreneurs."

The problem with many free trade zones is that they are designed only for big companies, says Ma. "We think there should be free trade zones for small companies: 24 hour customs clearing, if you are below US$1 million exporting to other countries it should be tariff free."

eWTP is about the "Four T's" says Ma: Training, Trade, Technology and Tourism.

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eWTP is a private sector driven initiative, and will be implemented in other countries after its debut in Rwanda. "We want to convince countries where the government has the wisdom and the courage to support small business... that's the vision."

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Global CooperationGeographies in Depth
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