Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2 May 2022)
In January of this year, Ermyas Amelga, an Ethiopian entrepreneur, alleged to be working on an e-commerce platform with the Alibaba Group, China’s tech giant, that was set to be deployed in five or six months. However, after the story was publicized on The Reporter, Alibaba issued a statement to the news media on March 22, 2022, refuting Ermyas’ claim.
An investigation conducted by The Reporter received direct answers from Alibaba’s head of International Corporate Communications, Lucia Mak, and Alibaba’s International Corporate Affairs director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Maja Hauke, that the company has no plans to launch an e-commerce business in Ethiopia anytime soon.
When asked to provide proof for his assertions, Ermyas failed to provide concrete evidence. He provided different and contradicting facts at different times, on the same questions asked by The Reporter’s investigative team. At one point, Ermyas said the agreement was inked with Alibaba’s Ethiopian representatives, who neither confirmed nor denied the agreement, before switching his story and saying the agreement was rather with Whale Cloud Technology Ltd, saying that it is an Alibaba-owned entity through which it conducts its international operations. This, too, was falsified however when Lucia explained that although Whale Cloud entered a “strategic partnership” with Alibaba Cloud in 2018, Whale Cloud enters agreements independently from Alibaba.
It is said that, after The Reporter published the initial story of the partnership in January, Ermyas has been dealing with local companies, trying to persuade them he is bringing Alibaba onboard. The managers of these firms were however doubtful of his statements, knowing that Alibaba was giant enough to launch an e-commerce platform on its own. Besides, Khalid Ahmed (Ph.D.), Head of Digital Tech Ecosystem Development and Regulatory Unit at the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MInT) called Ermyas’ claim bold seeing how there is not even a legal framework that allows Alibaba or any foreign e-commerce company to come and operate in Ethiopia as of now.
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