Follow CGSP on Social Media

Listen to the CGSP Podcast

Dean Diabate’s China Story and How African Exporters Can Reach China’s Online Shoppers

Dean Diabate first came to China in 2008, a very long time ago in the world of Chinese eCommerce. Back then, people didn’t buy much online or use mobile payments. In fact, no one had ever heard of the now-ubiquitous super app WeChat, much less Alipay or any of the countless digital platforms that have transformed daily life in China.

Dean just knew that he liked being in China. He liked the energy, the non-stop pace and the opportunities that professional opportunities. He started there as a student intern, then moved into banking and finally found his way to eCommerce where he now works as a Project Lead at the online giant Alibaba.

“I strongly believe that the best help doesn’t come through donations or charity but through empowerment. Our work has empowered an entire industry, creating tangible win-wins for everyone including farmers in the coffee washing stations and changing the lives of the three coffee suppliers that participated in this campaign [in Rwanda]”

Dean Diabate commenting on Alibaba’s new electronic World Trade Platform introduced in Rwanda

Situated at Alibaba’s global headquarters in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Dean is ideally situated to watch the latest trends in the fast-moving Chinese eCommerce space and help to develop creative ways for how African exporters might be able to tap the incredible potential of the vast Chinese online shopping market.

Dean is on the team at Alibaba that is working closely with Rwanda on various e-government programs as well as helping the country’s coffee exporters get their products into the cups of China’s increasingly sophisticated coffee consumers. Through his experience working at Alibaba and with Rwandan stakeholders, he’s come up with a lot of ideas for what other African companies can do to leverage Chinese eCommerce platforms to find new markets for their products.

Dean joins Eric & Cobus from Hangzhou to talk about his personal journey to Alibaba and his reflections on the latest trends in the Chinese eCommerce sector.

Show Notes:

About Dean Diabate:

Dean Diabate has spent more than 10 years living and working in China which as given him first-hand insights in experiencing and understanding the societal and economic changes that led China to where it is today. He started his China experience in Shanghai as a Sales Intern in the financial services sector in 2008 before opening China’s first Scandinavian-dedicated private bank, which was then sold in early 2010. Looking for a change as well as deepen his understanding of China’s booming digital economy, he joined a boutique digital content studio as Business Development Manager. A year later, Dean started DHD Agency with the mission to transform the way businesses market themselves and address critical challenges around customer acquisition, targeting and retention by using traditional tools and innovative technologies such as AR and VR. He now works for Alibaba Group (TMall Global) after spending 15 months in the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy (AGLA). In AGLA, he did immersive work at Rural Taobao, AliExpress and TMall Global and attended in-depth learning modules on Chinese culture, cloud computing, logistics, online payments, marketplaces, local services and entertainment businesses.

What is The China-Global South Project?


The China-Global South Project is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Global South stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalists and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Global South discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.