Nairobi News


How Kenya lost Jack Ma’s lucrative deal to Rwanda

Kenya may have lost a lucrative deal after Jack Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of AliBaba, opted to set shop in Rwanda instead despite having an initial interest in Kenya.

This was revealed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Dr Mukhisa Kituyi during an interview with Jeff Koinange on JKL.

According to Dr Kituyi, Kenyan government’s lackluster approach after meeting Jack Ma was the reason why the deal to market the country’s coffee abroad  collapsed.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame was more proactive to the deal that has doubled coffee prices for farmers in his country.

“July, two years ago, I brought Jack Ma and 16 Chinese billionaires to Nairobi. We had a lecture in University of Nairobi and had a meeting with business community at Kempiski. We visited Nailab and State House and then I took them to Kigali,” Dr Kituyi said.

In Kigali, they met with President Kagame and his cabinet, and unlike Kenya, Rwanda followed up the meeting.


“President Kagame followed up the meeting, he requested for concrete meetings on what to do and last year, Alibaba rolled out the first world electronic trading platform for agricultural produce to be rolled out in Africa in Kigali.

“The price of coffee from Rwanda more than doubled in the first three weeks and since then, sales have gone up more than 40 per cent,” said Dr Kituyi.

According to him, Rwanda saw an opportunity and seized it and aligned resources with the opportunity while its leadership walked the talk.

“Kenyan government never followed up, but Kenyan young men and women followed up on their own effort,” he said.

Last year, Jack Ma chose Kenya’s start-up incubator Nailab to run a Sh1 billion African entrepreneurs funding programme to fund innovators providing digital solutions so as to address challenges and support Africa’s digital economy.

“There are many great things which are being done in this country, but they get submerged in the sea of mediocrity. I believe that the model of African development requires a developmental state where the political leadership is consumed by an obsession that it can rise from where it is and deliver the country to a higher level,” said the UNCTAD Secretary General.