Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Government of Rwanda and Alibaba Group Enter into Agreements to Promote Rwanda’s Economic Development

The first eWTP hub in Africa was launched in Rwanda; Key initiatives include assisting Rwandan SMEs to sell to Chinese consumers, promoting Rwandan tourism and providing capacity building to empower Rwanda’s digital economy

KIGALI, Rwanda, Oct. 31, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma witnessed the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the Rwandan Government and Alibaba establishing an eWTP (electronic world trade platform) hub in Rwanda. The agreements are intended to strengthen cooperation in support of Rwanda’s economic development by promoting policy innovation, enabling cross-border trade of Rwandan products to Chinese consumers, facilitating tourism to Rwanda, and providing capacity building to empower the growth of Rwanda’s digital economy.

The Government of Rwanda and Alibaba Group Enter into Agreements to Promote Rwanda's Economic Development

As a regional pioneer with a vision to create world class digital infrastructure, Rwanda becomes the first country in Africa to establish an eWTP hub. The eWTP is a multi-stakeholder global initiative promoting public-private dialogue to foster a more effective and efficient policy and business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in cross-border electronic trade.

“The Electronic World Trade Platform opens up new frontiers in e-commerce and tourism for Rwanda, and will also boost the capacity and competitiveness of our entrepreneurs and businesspeople,” said President Paul Kagame. “Rwandan producers will be able to sell directly to a much larger set of customers than before, while bypassing costly intermediaries. This improves productivity and profitability. There really are no downsides to doing business on a global scale.”

“I am delighted that Rwanda is the first eWTP partner in Africa, and I look forward to the development of an innovative digital economy here,” said Mr. Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.  “Entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and elsewhere in Africa, are ready to seize the opportunities offered by the digital economy. It is up to all of us to help them succeed.”

Under the agreements, Alibaba will work with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to help Rwandan SMEs sell their products, including coffee and handicrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s online marketplaces. With more than half a billion consumers, Alibaba is the world’s largest online commerce company and home to leading cross-border marketplaces where Chinese consumers look to find the highest quality products from around the world. Several brands of Rwandan single origin coffee are already available for sale on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform.

Alibaba’s travel services platform, Fliggy, and the RDB will also work together to promote Rwanda as a tourist destination through a Rwanda Tourism Store for booking flights, hotels and travel experiences and a Destination Pavilion where Chinese consumers can learn about visiting the country, including its beautiful natural parks, through engaging video content. Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial will share expertise in inclusive financial tools, such as mobile payments, to support the Rwandan digital economy.

“The partnership between Rwanda and Alibaba will change people’s lives for the better. We are committed to leveraging the digital economy to support our exporters, local producers and artisans. We have already seen tremendous attention from Chinese consumers on Alibaba’s platforms in high-quality Rwandan products such as our top-tier single estate coffee, and we are confident that local products and travel experiences will continue to receive interest and support from the more than half a billion consumers on Alibaba’s platforms,” said RDB Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi.

Alibaba is also committed to providing capacity building to academics, policy makers and entrepreneurs on how to grow a digital economy. The Global E-commerce Talent Program (GET) is a five-day course to boost the competencies of Rwandan university teachers and deepen their understanding of the e-commerce industry, so they can train digital talent and future entrepreneurs to compete in the global economy. Fifty lecturers from Rwanda’s top universities attended the first GET program in August organized by Alibaba Business School in partnership with the Ministry of Education’s Higher Education Council and the RDB.

For policy makers, Alibaba will host a three-day workshop at its Hangzhou headquarters to showcase the nature, capabilities and promise of a new digital economy through first-hand experience with digital finance, logistics, e-commerce and big data industries. A delegation of Ministers and government officials responsible for the development of Rwanda’s digital economy will attend a workshop in Hangzhou in January 2019.

Alibaba will also continue to support Rwandan entrepreneurs through programs such as the eFounders Fellowship. In partnership with UNCTAD, Alibaba is training 1,000 entrepreneurs from emerging markets over five years. Two hundred of those entrepreneurs will come from Africa. Five Rwandan entrepreneurs have already graduated from the eFounders Fellowship program.

For photos, videos, additional information about the MoU as well as Alibaba’s ongoing initiatives across Africa, visit our corporate news site:

Rwanda First in Africa to Join Alibaba led eWTP
Alibaba in Africa Factsheet

About Alibaba Group
Alibaba Group’s mission is to make it easy to do business anywhere and the company aims to achieve sustainable growth for 102 years. For the fiscal year ended March 2018, the company reported revenues of US$39.9 billion.

About the Rwanda Development Board
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was set up by bringing together all the government agencies responsible for the entire investor experience under one roof. This includes key agencies responsible for business registration, investment promotion, environmental clearances, privatization and specialist agencies which support the priority sectors of ICT and tourism as well as SMEs and human capacity development in the private sector. For more information, please visit

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CAR Defense Minister: Efforts to Rebuild National Army Continue

Throughout nearly six years of civil war, the Central African Republic’s military has struggled to restore peace. Fighting with rebels and militias has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, while accusations of human rights abuses and ethnic bias have left some civilians in fear of their protectors.

The CAR minister of defense, Marie-Noëlle Koyara, hopes to change course. She’s leading efforts to rebuild the military’s reputation and restore the country’s security.

“We want a professional army that will truly be of service to the people,” Koyara told VOA’s French to Africa service in a recent interview.

Koyara said the country is working on various reforms: background checks on soldiers, training and troop deployments across the country. Military leaders also plan to establish four garrisons in key areas of the CAR.

“For there to be a return to security, it is necessary for our security forces, of which the Central African Armed Forces are part, to be reconstructed, because we have experienced the highs and the lows with this army,” Koyara said.

International players

Much of the rebuilding of the Central African Armed Forces, or FACA, has been supervised by the U.N. Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) and the European Union.
The United Nations has helped vet soldiers, create a biometric database and rebuild a military camp in Kassai, near the capital, Bangui.

The European Union has trained more than 3,000 security forces in the CAR since 2016 and has recently moved to increase funding for training in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported this month.
The United States says it is focusing on improving food security for the CAR’s displaced people and providing employment opportunities that make young people less vulnerable to recruitment by militias or extremist groups.

“We need to create a partnership where peace is more profitable than conflict for the people of the Central African Republic,” said Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, the U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs. “That’s our goal, and we’ll work on a variety of fronts to see how we can accomplish that.”

Russian presence

One country has played a more active role in CAR’s conflict. Russia has donated weapons and sent about 500 military trainers to the country. As of September, they have trained more than 1,000 soldiers. Russia is also flexing its diplomatic muscles by working with Sudan to mediate a peace deal among CAR rebel groups.

But Russia’s involvement in the CAR has drawn criticism from the international community, which has accused Moscow of destabilizing the CAR and seeking access to its abundant natural resources.

“I think any country that wants to play a constructive role, a law-abiding role, is understandably welcome,” Fitzsimmons said.

“Where I see concern is if we have countries that want to come in and exploit the natural resources, that want to try to run a parallel peace process to the one…under the auspices of the African Union,” she added. “If those partners are not going to be constructive, they aren’t going to be true partners. Potentially they’re going to exploit the resources and continue divisions.”

Russian mercenaries in the CAR have also grabbed headlines in recent months. In July, three documentary filmmakers were ambushed and killed in the CAR while investigating the activities of the Russian military firm Wagner.
Koyara said she was saddened by the loss of life and is anxious to see the results of an inquiry into their deaths. She called on the international community to help the CAR track and remove mercenaries from the country.

“If you look among the armed groups who come to our country, there are mercenaries there also among these armed groups,” she said. “We need to have the means to follow and identify who are the people who come to destroy or destabilize our country. We are a country that has endured a grave crisis, and we are returning with great difficulty because we don’t have the means to control everything that happens in our territory.”

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Defense Minister Warns Foreigners Against Travel

Cameroon’s defense minister called on all foreign nationals in the country’s restive regions to be cautious after an American missionary died after being shot in the head amid fighting between armed separatists and soldiers in the northwest.
“If you must be there, immediately inform the military so we can assure your safety,” Joseph Beti Assomo said Wednesday, adding that Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and southwest regions, where separatists are fighting for an independent state, are dangerous for foreigners.
Charles Trumann Wesco, a missionary from the U.S. state of Indiana, had been in the region with his wife, Stephanie, and eight children for nearly two weeks before Tuesday’s shooting.
Dave Halyman, assistant pastor at Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana, where Stephanie Wesco’s father, Don Williams, is the senior pastor, said that Williams had spoken by phone with his daughter after the shooting.
Reporting Williams’ account, Halyman said the shooting happened as Charles and Stephanie Wesco were in a car being driven by another missionary to the town of Bamnui from the Bamenda suburb of Bambili, where the family has been living. He said Charles Wesco was in the front seat, and two shots hit the windshield and struck him in the head. No one else was hurt, Halyman said
The family had raised financial support to work in Cameroon for two years and had visited the country two years ago on a survey trip.
The United States embassy has not reacted to the shooting, but it has for some time warned U.S. citizens against travel to the country’s restive regions.
Most foreign and local enterprises have left Cameroon’s north and south west regions, where violence has escalated and hundreds have been killed in fighting between separatists and the military in the past year.
This is not the first time a foreign national has been killed in these areas.
A Ghanaian pastor was found dead with bullet wounds in July near Buea, in Cameroon’s southwest region.
A Tunisian and his co-worker were killed in an operation in March Cameroon’s southwest Manyu Division that also freed four other Tunisian engineers.
Foreign road construction engineers were kidnapped in April by armed gangs in Mamfe in the southwest region for neglecting demands to stop building roads. The military staged an operation to free them, during which a Nigerian and a Gabonese died and three were saved.
Authorities in April also said they had freed 18 people, including 12 European tourists, who were seized in their vehicle by armed separatists in Manyu in the southwest while they were visiting a lake in the region.
Regional Governor Deben Tchoffo said armed groups staged attacks to stop the reopening of the University of Bamenda, and the military fought back Tuesday. He said Wesco might have been caught in crossfire.
The military has killed at least four suspects in Wesco’s death and arrested many others, military spokesman Col. Didier Badjeck told The Associated Press. He did not specify if the people detained were military personnel or separatists.
The increased violence began after the government clamped down on demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they called their marginalization by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. Armed factions emerged after the government crackdown and have been using violence to push for an independent state they call “Ambazonia.”
Protests against the 85-year-old Biya’s Oct. 7 re-election have been ongoing.

Source: Voice of America

Nigerian Shi’ite Group Says Security Forces Fired on Protests, Killed 42

The movement of a jailed Nigerian Shi’ite cleric whose followers have repeatedly been targeted by the authorities said on Wednesday security forces had killed 42 of its members during two days of violent crackdowns on protests in the capital Abuja.
Security forces opened fire with live ammunition on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who had marched in their hundreds to demand the release of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, jailed since 2015 when the army killed hundreds of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground.
The IMN raised its death toll on Wednesday from the two previous days’ violence to 42 from an earlier figure of 25. The toll included seven people who died of injuries received on Tuesday and 35 killed the previous day, said Ibrahim Musa, an IMN spokesman.
On Monday, the army opened fire on the marchers on the outskirts of Abuja. On Tuesday, the police shot at the protesters in the city center, issuing a statement later that day saying 400 IMN members were detained. The statement did not mention any deaths.
Police and army spokesmen did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the updated death toll. The army has said that three IMN members were killed on Monday.
Zakzaky was charged in April this year with murder over the 2015 violence, after being held for more than two years. Authorities ignored a court ruling during the period before he was charged that he be released, sparking protests from his followers.
IMN protests have frequently been met with force. In April, police fired bullets and tear gas during days of protests by IMN, wounding at least four protesters.
President Muhammadu has in the past accused the Shi’ites of creating “a state within a state”, though he said at the time that civilian deaths could not be justified. Since then, however, the government has remained largely silent on accusations it has used excessive force against the group.
Around half of Nigeria’s 190 million people are Muslims. Although virtually all of them are Sunnis, Zakzaky has attracted an estimated 3 million followers as a preacher of Shi’ite Islam since being drawn to that sect by the 1979 revolution in Iran.
The repression of IMN and detention of its leader have drawn criticism from international human rights watchdogs and raised concern that the group could become radicalized, just as the Sunni Muslim militant group Boko Haram turned into a violent insurgency in 2009 after police killed its leader.

Source: Voice of America

Opportunity International Honors 2018 WeGo Award Winners

Chicago, Oct. 31, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Opportunity International is pleased to announce the winners of the Women and Girls Opportunity (WeGO) Awards. The inaugural WeGO Award seeks to highlight and honor Opportunity International partners around the world who work selflessly in challenging environments to implement projects that improve livelihoods and financial opportunities of women and girls around the world. Winners of this award receive a small cash prize to support their project’s implementation.

“For nearly half a century, Opportunity International has worked to empower some of the most marginalized women around the world by listening to them,” said Lydia Baldridge Meier, Senior Vice President for Philanthropy Services at Opportunity International.  “The WeGO Awards are meant to shine a light on some of the most innovative ways our partners are doing that work. I was thrilled to see the volume of great submissions, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that all our partners around the world can learn from each other. Together, we are creating opportunities for women living in poverty to change the fut

FIRST PRIZE ($5,000): Youth apprenticeship program in Ghana

Opportunity’s microfinance partner Sinapi Aba Trust runs a job training program offering livelihood opportunities to young people, mostly young women and girls (ages 15-25), who are poor, uneducated, orphaned or caring for sick parents or siblings. The livelihood program provides on-the-job apprenticeships with experienced mentors, usually Sinapi Aba Trust’s clients, who lead them in developing valuable skills, including hands-on training, small business education and mentorship from female leaders in the community who help encourage and inspire the young women in the program. More than 3,000 apprentices – 80 percent of whom are young women – have completed the program, and a recent survey showed that one year after completion, 97 percent of graduates were employed. Sinapi Aba Trust plans to use its award winnings to expand its program to the northern part of Ghana.

SECOND PRIZE ($2,500): Recovery and economic empowerment program in Malawi 

Opportunity Malawi partners with the Freedom from Fistula Foundation, providing financial services to women who are experiencing pain and ostracism as a result of fistula, an obstetric condition. Through the partnership, the organizations work together to help these women undergo fistula repair and reintegrate into their communities, providing financial literacy and entrepreneur training, soft loans and savings accounts to help the women launch small-scale businesses. Since 2012, more than 3,000 women and girls have gone through the program in Malawi. Opportunity Malawi hopes to reach another 1,500 women in the next three years, using part of its winnings from this award to expand its outreach.

THIRD PRIZE ($1,000): Women banking agents program in India

Center for Development Orientation and Training (CDOT) is an Opportunity International partner in India’s Bihar state, serving 4,000 women with loans and thousands more with access to savings opportunities. CDOT is also working to establish more women as “agent bankers,” small shop owners who have enough cash flow to also serve as deposit-takers or cash providers in their local community on behalf of larger financial institutions. Each agent banker earns a small transaction commission for their work. Agent bankers also help their female clients by serving as a source of financial education and encouragement. The organization hopes to expand the program and train more agent bankers beyond Bihar state.


Opportunity International is a global microfinance non-profit committed to ending extreme poverty and promoting quality education for poor families. Since 1971, Opportunity has helped millions of families work their way out of poverty by providing financial resources, training and delivering ongoing support to start small businesses, earn living wages and feed their families. To get more children into better quality schools, the organization provides loans to families seeking tuition and educators who want to improve local schools. In 2017, Opportunity International issued nearly $1.6 billion in loans, reaching nearly 9 million clients in 22 countries, and helped fund 1,800 schools serving more than 500,000 children. Discover more at or join the conversation on and

Christina Koliopoulos
Opportunity International