HONG KONG Alibaba plans to train a million teenagers in rural China to help start their own online businesses, taking e-commerce to the country's vast rural areas, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
China's biggest e-commerce company reached an agreement with the China Communist Youth League to support the youngsters through funding, training and partnership, Xinhua said.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's Internet finance arm Ant Financial plans to invest 1 billion yuan ($154 million) to support college graduates who want to return to their home towns to start businesses.
E-commerce, whose development is strongly backed by China's leadership, is spreading quickly in rural China with more farmers selling their produce online.
Premier Li Keqiang included e-commerce expansion when he laid out his "Internet Plus" strategy in an address last week at China's annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing.
In villages, service stations have been set to help those who lack the necessary skills to trade online. Villagers can order goods at the stations and then return a few days later to collect their packages, Xinhua said.
The number of these village hubs has risen from three in 2009 to 780, with plans to add another 100,000 village stations and 1,000 county stations by 2019 at a cost of around 10 billion yuan, Xinhua said.
Online sales in rural areas grew at double the pace of urban areas. Rural shoppers, who account for nearly one-third of the total, spent 195 million yuan online last year, Xinhua said.
($1 = 6.5120 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Meg Shen; Editing by Alexander Smith)