unctad.org | A new way of introducing emarket places: the story of a passionate social entrepreneur
A new way of introducing emarket places: the story of a passionate social entrepreneur
13 August 2019
Youth eFounders Profiles of Fellows
Basson Engelbrecht from South Africa, e-commerce platform entrepreneur

South Africa is home to a large number of online entrepreneurs, but few of them combine passion, social entrepreneurship and inclusiveness on such wide-reaching scale as does Basson Engelbrecht, one of the African entrepreneurs who participated in the joint UNCTAD - Alibaba Business School eFounders Fellowship programme.

"Together and stronger" could be the slogan of Hoorah, an e-commerce marketplace founded by Basson Engelbrecht, a former triathlon athlete, and young digital entrepreneur from South-Africa.

What strikes most when talking with Basson is his inherent willingness to address some of the challenges that developing communities face when advocating for an increased use of new technologies for entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Basson Engelbrecht from South Africa, e-commerce platform entrepreneur

"With Hoorah, we aim to empower African entrepreneurs, including rural and informal vendors, by providing them an online platform to sell, grow and expose their businesses", Engelbrecht said.

While eCommerce continues to be a relatively new concept to many, offering such services to small and informal vendors comes with additional challenges.

"We had to make extra efforts in order to understand the constraints they face - such as a lack of digital literacy and business management skills - in order to develop a service that would enable them to use our platform", Basson explains.

The empowering entrepreneur's experience in China - as part of the joint UNCTAD and Alibaba Business School eFounders Fellowship programme - further encouraged him to expand the business activities and share his vision outwards into the developing sectors. Such action ultimately led Hoorah to seek innovative ways to empower its users. The company created a development process through which "outliers" - sellers who do well - are identified and encouraged to act as role models in their communities.

Hoorah e-commerce platform

"The Hoorah Rural Franchise is a concept like no other, we look out for community agents. The agents receive additional e-commerce training and equipment and are then encouraged to empower their networks of entrepreneurs".

Hoorah also created a brand development service through which Basson and his team accompany high-potential entrepreneurs in their strategies aiming at growth and scale-ups for their business activity.

"Through this model, we not only empower entrepreneurs but whole communities by teaching basic, yet fundamental concepts. We also give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to start a business using the Hoorah infrastructure and receive support in the rural areas where knowledge and accessibility to technology are scarce."

On top of attending the eFounders training in Hangzhou, China, Basson has continued with efforts that aim towards raising awareness on eCommerce and its concepts in more-rural communities. He and his team are well on their way to inspiring a younger generation as they recently launched a 6-week training course on ecommerce in partnership with one of the target high-schools in South Africa.

Synergies within an ecosystem is an essential element of e-commerce. In the case of Basson and Hoorah, the term acquired a new sense through the creation of an empowering virtuous circle inside and outside the boundaries of the company.

It is precisely these types of efforts that the eFounders Fellowship programme looks to support and empower, to thereby further develop sustainability for young entrepreneurs in digital markets.


eFounders Fellowship Programme

UNCTAD’s smart partnership with the Alibaba Business School aims to bridge the digital divide in Africa and Asia and empower young e-founders in developing countries to become champions for the new economy.

The partnership is the brainchild of UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi and Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, who served as a special advisor to UNCTAD on young entrepreneurs and small business.


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