This week, the Jack Ma Foundation unveiled its top 20 finalists for its Africa’s Business Heroes competition. Alibaba Group’s A.I. algorithm and machine learning technologies outperformed humans in an exam. The British Museum partnered with Alibaba to roll out exclusive tours for local Chinese visitors. We also took a look at e-commerce related challenges and opportunities in China and the U.S..
Last but not least, Alizila sat down with Yuto Horigome for an exclusive interview about winning the first-ever gold medal at the Olympics Games.
Africa’s Business Heroes’ Top 20 Unveiled
Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition – the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic program in Africa to support entrepreneurs – announced the 20 finalists for 2021. Hailing from 11 countries across the continent, these entrepreneurs will proceed to the semi-finals for a chance to win a share of US$1.5 million in grant funding. The average age of the group is 34 years old. The entrepreneurs stood out from a pool of 12,000 applicants from across Africa, representing sectors spanning agriculture, beauty, education, energy, financial services, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, media and entertainment and retail.
Machine Learning Technology Outperforms Humans in Visual Question Answering
This week, Alibaba placed first at the Visual Question Answering (VQA) Leaderboard and outperformed humans in understanding images through natural language processing. The virtual challenge, organized by universities Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, requires A.I. algorithms and machine learning to make sense of visually confusing images and answer accurately in natural language. The best score was 80.83% accuracy for humans, while Alibaba’s algorithm recorded an 81.26% accuracy rate. With over 250,000 images and 1.1 million questions, the VQA challenge attracts major players, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Stanford University The VQA technology designed by Alibaba’s research and development arm DAMO Academy excelled in conducting research and is also applied to real-life scenarios across the company. For example, it has been used in Alibaba’s intelligent chatbot Alime Shop Assistant to help merchants identify and search for products, a feature used by tens of thousands of merchants on Alibaba’s retail platforms.
Five Things About U.S. B2B Small and Medium-Sized Businesses this Month
Alibaba’s largest cross-border B2B marketplace Alibaba.com shared the latest monthly trends and insights with small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S.:
- Rising input and supply costs are creating inflationary pressures. 70% of small business owners reported experiencing rising supply costs, 39% of businesses raised product prices.
- International supply chain disruptions are on the rise. International delays jumped from 12.2% to 15.9% from April to July.
- Container costs saw a 236% year-over-year increase.
- 49% of SMBs reported difficulty filling jobs, a 48-year high record.
- SMBs reported a drop in economic confidence, the lowest point since March 2021.
Despite ongoing challenges, Alibaba.com sees rising sourcing demand on the platform in the month ahead. Top categories such as commercial service equipment, sports & entertainment, toys, construction, and minerals saw an average of 73% growth in daily demand in July 2021 compared to the same month last year. August is typically a busy sourcing month as retailers stock up for the end-of-year holiday season, said the platform. To read the full update, click here.
British Museum Joins Fliggy to Launch Thematic Virtual Tours for Chinese Visitors
This Thursday, the British Museum signed a partnership with Alibaba’s travel division, Fliggy, to expand its tour offerings to Chinese visitors. The museum will add four customized tours around the museum featuring well-trained tour guides in Chinese. For a more exclusive experience, the museum will allow visitors to book their trip two hours ahead of time and after official opening hours. These perks are building on Fliggy’s partnership with the British Museum since 2016. During the pandemic last year, the British Museum tapped into livestreaming with Fliggy as a way to stay connected with its visitors virtually. In the first minute of their joint livestream, over 370,000 Chinese users tuned into the program. The expanded collaboration and tours are designed to grant special access to Chinese-speaking audiences.
Perfume Sales Take Off in China on Tmall Global
The number of niche perfume and cologne brands who joined Tmall Global this year has tripled year on year, according to Alibaba’s B2C cross-border marketplace. Overseas brands are looking to take a bite of China’s ever-growing demand for boutique fragrance, a market soon to reach RMB30 billion (US$ 4.61 billion) by 2025, according to market research provider Euromonitor. Young consumers drove up online sales of boutique perfume brands during China’s Qixi Valentine’s Day on August 14. British fragrance brands such as Penhaligon’s tapped into Tmall Global and its interactive features to engage with younger audiences in China. Other brands such as Memo Paris are responding to rising consumption needs with new China-specific products for local consumers in the future, the company said.
An Exclusive Alizila Interview with Gold Medalist Yuto Horigome
Alizila interviewed the 22-year-old Japanese professional skater Yuto Horigome after the athlete took gold in the men’s street final on July 25. Horigome talked about competing on his home turf, defying social stigma and misconceptions of skating growing up in Japan and collaborating with tech giant Alibaba Group. To read the interview, click here.