Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has announced its plans to train a million teenagers and graduates living in rural areas of China to kick-start their own businesses.
According to local reports, Alibaba reached an agreement today with the China Communist Youth League to support the teenagers with funding, training and partnerships.
Alibaba’s internet financing branch Ant Financial will set aside 1 billion yuan (approx. £108 million) to invest in the training of recent college graduates who want to return to their home-towns and launch businesses.
Laying out the national ‘Internet Plus’ strategy in a speech earlier this month, prime minister Li Keqiang unveiled a draft of the country’s new five-year plan which aims to use the internet to strengthen a slowing economy and transform China into a powerful global cyber force. Keqiang strongly backed the development of e-commerce in the country as part of this mission.
The industry is picking up considerable steam in China’s rural communities, where an increasing number of farmers are looking to the internet to sell their produce. Recently Chinese tech giants including Alibaba and JD.com have set up service stations in far-flung villages to train individuals, without the necessary internet skills, to trade online. Residents can order products online at the centres and return to pick them up a few days later – an important service as many couriers refuse to deliver to remote towns.
Alibaba service stations have risen in number from just three in 2009 to 780 this year. Plans are now under way to add a further 100,000 village centres and 1,000 regional centres by 2019 – at an expected cost of 10 billion yuan. Despite this push, the centres will only reach a tiny fraction of the estimated 600,000 villages scattered across the country.
Yet progress has still been noticeable. Online sales in rural areas grew at double the pace of urban areas last year, with rural shoppers spending 195 million yuan online.