Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the disease when the COVID-19 virus exploded onto the world scene – is very slowly coming back to life. On Wednesday (April 8), China officially ended its lockdown on the city, whose name is inextricably linked to the global spread of both the disease and the ensuing economic disaster.
Alipay, part of Alibaba’s Ant Financial Services Group, wants to be part of Wuhan’s turnaround. The mobile and online payment platform has announced it is offering “a series of initiatives to support small businesses in Wuhan as the city emerges from lockdown.”
Alipay said it can harness “the power of digital technologies to transform adversity into opportunities.”
“In every hardship, there lies an opportunity to envision and create a brighter future. We firmly believe that, after the COVID-19 outbreak, service providers who are able to tap into the power of digital technologies will come out the strongest,” said Simon Hu, CEO of Ant Financial, in a prepared statement. “We will continue to provide leading digital technology solutions to support the recovery of small businesses and help them prepare for the future.”
Alipay said it has set up a special section of its app to make it easy to “locate merchants and their respective products and services in Wuhan.” Further, the company said, app users can place orders for Wuhan products and “access livestreams of tourist destinations across the city as it emerges from lockdown.” Small and medium-size businesses can also visit the platform to apply for loans offered by the Chinese online lender MYbank and 100 other banks in China.
Alipay said MYbank will waive interest rates for 360,000 offline micro-merchants in Wuhan for the first month and cut interest rates by 20 percent for Hubei businesses. MYbank, an offshoot of Alibaba, claims it can deliver loans faster and for less than what it would cost brick-and-mortar banks.
Alipay also said it would “incentivize service providers to develop digital solutions needed by restaurants to resume work and advance their digital transformation. These solutions, designed to be ‘zero contact,’ will cover a range of processes, including food ordering, reservations and delivery.”