The just-concluded eFounders Fellowship Program organized by eCommerce magnate, Alibaba Group, in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), featured five startups from the North African region.
Represented at the 11-day immersion program were entrepreneurs from Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia. These startups were selected as part of 29 African entrepreneurs who participated in the event that was held in Hangzhou, China, late last month.
The fellowship program, which is the brainchild of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, and the UNCTAD, featured 29 tech entrepreneurs selected from 11 African countries. Two entrepreneurs apiece from Egypt and Tunisia, as well as an Algerian entrepreneur, represented the five North African startups which took part in what is the third cohort of the eFounders Fellowship.
Amongst the North African representatives were Algeria’s Taoufik Mousselmal, who was the flag bearer for Maisonmaligne; an eCommerce platform which employs AI tools in the feeding and optimization of its catalog, to take advantage of different marketplaces such as Amazon and Cdiscount. As part of its expansion plans, Taoufik’s startup is also looking to partner with many North African manufacturers going forward.
Egypt’s Hany Girgis and Hatem Ayoub were holding down the fort for their respective enterprises. Hany Girgis participated in the fellowship as the founder of Masry Market; an online platform that is making a name for itself as the go-to source for local consumer alternatives to household products. Hany’s platform also offers competitive prices while helping local businesses stay afloat. The startup has set its sights on cushioning the effects of the newly-formed market gap brought about by the current financial crisis in Egypt. It also hopes to leverage its resources into meeting untapped needs by establishing an avenue for consumers to easily avail themselves of everyday products at pocket-friendly prices.
Hatem Ayoub, on the other hand, was the torchbearer for his travel startup, Tripdizer, at the eFounders Fellowship. Tripdizer is looking to carve a niche for itself as a travel marketplace that promises a convenient, unique, and affordable travel experience. It is designed to deliver a dynamic and interactive solution with a combination of travel experts’ advice and recommendations. The platform’s intuitive and all-inclusive web-portal makes it a good choice for users who want to create a memorable travel experience at their convenience, and without any hassle.
Tunisia was represented Sadok Ghanouchi of E-Taxi and Sami Tounsi of Monresto. As the name implies, E-Taxi is a cab-hailing service that connects its users to taxi drivers in their locale using different digital platforms which include phone, app, and website. The platform also incorporates a geolocation feature that is identical to what is obtainable from established brands like Uber and Careem, and its services are targeted at businesspeople, restaurant-goers, hotel residents, holiday-makers, tourists, and vacationers.
Sami’s creation, Monresto, is into food logistics. The platform is in the business of connecting customers with local food vendors, delis, diners, restaurants, and independent drivers. This serves as an ideal marketplace for on-demand food services.
The fellowship program lasted for the better part of a fortnight, and during the course of the program, the participating entrepreneurs were schooled by executives/instructors from the Alibaba Business School and local entrepreneurs on the intricacies, implications, and the potential transformative impact of eCommerce and technology, with China as a reference point. “When Alibaba was founded back in 1999, the company faced many of the same barriers and lack of infrastructure that entrepreneurs in Africa face today. Together with UNCTAD, we want to empower Africa’s young entrepreneurs not only to succeed in their ventures but to return home and demonstrate to others how to build inclusive business models for the digital era,” says Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group and one of the mentors/facilitators of the programme. The Chinese billionaire, who also doubles as a UNCTAD Special Adviser for young entrepreneurs and small businesses, has pledged to empower 1000 entrepreneurs from developing countries in five years; and 200 of those are earmarked for Africa. The program also involved several on-site experiences including scheduled visits to Rural Taobao; an Alibaba rural initiative, as well as the Cainiao smart logistics warehouse, and Hema; an AI-powered supermarket.
Amongst other African nations represented at the fellowship were entrepreneurs from such countries as Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Chad, and Cameroon. These startups were selected through a multi-stage process and their services cut across a number of industries including eCommerce, logistics, fintech, tourism, and data analytics. The program is founded on the motivation of letting budding African entrepreneurs in on the potentials of eCommerce in bringing about transformative impact, with China as a case-study of China in the past decade. According to Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, the eFounders Fellowship Program is looking to establish a network of driven entrepreneurs whose have the potential to become game-changers and future policy-shapers for Africa. It is envisaged that this current crop of promising enterprises will bring into existence, a thriving digital marketplace in Africa.