Key findings from assessments of what African countries need to do to benefit from e-commerce and the digital economy were at the center of discussions on Monday at the first ministerial round-table on African e-Commerce at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in Nairobi.
UNCTAD’s rapid e-trade readiness assessments focuses on practical steps that national governments, with the support of donor agencies, development banks and international organizations, can take to boost online trade.
The assessments show that vast reforms are needed to seize the development opportunities offered by e-commerce.
But they also help African countries to identify opportunities, barriers and relevant policy measures required to improve their readiness to engage in and benefit from e-commerce.
Opening the five-day conference in Nairobi, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said there was a sense of urgency that Africa was being left out of the discourse on e-commerce that had already taken place elsewhere.
“That’s why this meeting is important. Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments were unique products that had been much in demand by African governments.
“Faced with current global trade challenges, many countries are moving forward with e-commerce strategies, but it is important that governments include all stakeholders,” he added.
The demand for eTrade Readiness Assessments was spreading fast, and beyond the least developed countries, Dr. Kituyi continued.
“The appetite is growing, but the laggards lie on this continent,” he went on.
It was important to remember that building e-commerce ecosystems in Africa was not only about consumers being enabled to buy goods “made in India, made in China”, but for the world to buy merchandise “Made in Africa”.
“The Africa eCommerce Week” is the first regional incarnation of UNCTAD’s global eCommerce Week, held annually in Geneva.
The 2,000 registered participants include senior political leaders, who have been joined by representatives of 330 businesses, with 50 CEOs and other entrepreneurs from start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, among them African graduates of the eFounders Initiative facilitated by UNCTAD.