Several issues were discussed at length in the Africa E-Commerce Week held in Nairobi. Here is a highlight to some of those issues.
- Continental Free Trade Area
The speakers at the conference discussed the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and ways to successfully implement the agreement. Similarly, challenges to the success of AfCFTA were adequately discussed and established to be such as; persisting infrastructure gap and the digital divide, inadequate regulatory and institutional frameworks, a weak enabling environment, and limited skills of both producers and consumers of digital products.
Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market and Vice President for the European Commission warned that Africa had better learn from the mistakes made by the European Union and see to it that these mistakes are not repeated.
- Elimination of Trade Barriers
More than 50% of the world is connected to the internet yet less than a quarter of people in Africa rural areas are connected to the internet. The discussion established that internet connectivity is a fundamental aspect of eCommerce. In Kenya, rural populations were still left out despite the work that had been done in Kenya to build fibre optic networks and make other advances.
Lack of proper internet connection in itself is a trade barrier by prohibiting people from accessing products and services and lack of an incentive to get people more connected an even bigger disaster.
- Digital Africa Must Make its Mark
E-Commerce assessments in Africa indicate a vast number of reforms to take advantage of opportunities offered by e-commerce but similarly enable African Countries to identify opportunities, barriers and relevant policy measures required to improve their readiness to engage in and benefit from e-commerce. The Secretary-General UNCTAD, Mukhisa Kituyi pointed out that eTrade Readiness Assessment is a product every government in Africa should pay attention to as the only way digital Africa will make its mark.
4. Mauritius Tops in Online Shopping in Africa.
Mauritius is the most prepared country in Africa for online shopping. Out of the 151 countries in the Business to Consumer E-commerce Index, 43 countries from Africa were featured. Kenya was ranked 7th in Africa. The UNCTAD secretary-general pointed out that Africa trails behind the rest of the world in its preparedness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy and three-quarters of the African population have yet to start using the internet. Business: Kenya Ranked 7th In Africa On The E-Commerce Index
Netherlands topped in the UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index 2018. Eight of the top ten countries are in Europe. Previously in 2017, Netherlands was ranked third while Luxembourg was ranked first which dropped to ten as a result of a drop in the postal reliability score. Singapore and Switzerland were in second and third place respectively.
5. East African Bloc Agrees to make Regional Trade Cheaper, Faster And Simpler.
East African representatives in the conference agreed to implement trade facilitation reforms including the reduction of non-tariff barriers such as burdensome and incompatible product regulations. The EAC move came after most African Countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA).
6. The Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy and Inclusive Development in Africa
The manifesto focuses on the inclusive social and economic benefits to be made from new forms of trade and pointed out the following key areas:-
- E-commerce readiness assessment and strategy formulation
- Information and telecommunications technology infrastructure and services
- Payment solutions
- Trade logistics: transport and trade facilitation
- Legal and regulatory frameworks
- E-commerce skills development
- Access to financing
- E-commerce and women’s empowerment
- Measuring e-commerce and the digital economy
7. Mobile money is the key to financial inclusion in Africa
Speakers indicated that sending and receiving money by the mobile phone can include more people into the economy in Africa and be the base of more sophisticated forms of e-commerce.
Keywords: UNCTAD, African e-commerce week, Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy, EAC, Trade Barriers