By Akanimo Sampson
Africa’s next steps on the path to engaging in and benefitting from e-commerce were outlined on Friday, December 14, by the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) in its Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy and Inclusive Development in Africa, issued at the conclusion of the first Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The digital economy, including e-commerce, is proliferating in Africa, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses to expand their market access and join value chains,” the manifesto states. “Jobs are being created and new business models are emerging.”
“At the same time, the evolving landscape is creating new risks and challenges,” it adds. “The development gains from e-commerce are not automatic, and the increased use of digital technologies can result in new divides and wider income inequalities.”
With its focus on the inclusive social and economic benefits to be made from new forms of trade, the Nairobi Manifesto charts a course for African countries with policy recommendations in nine critical 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
UNCTAD’s Africa eCommerce Week, co-organised with the African Union and the European Union, comprised more than 60 sessions convened to examine ways of enhancing the readiness of African countries to trade online and digitise their economies.
“Partner governments are now moving in the right direction, in step with what private actors and civil society put forward, but also producing rigorous regulatory frameworks,” UNCTAD Deputy-Secretary General Isabelle Durant said at the close of the five-day event.
“In organising this event, we have decided to put ourselves on the dynamic side of history by considering the risks of the digital world but also by addressing them,” she said.
Christian Minoungou, senior policy officer in the Department of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission, said the AU was proud to be part of Africa eCommerce Week and would continue its work to promote the digital economy and foster development in Africa.
“This type of event will really help raise awareness of some of the key policy issues,” Alessandro Tonoli, trade adviser for the EU Delegation to Kenya, said. “A dialogue between stakeholders is essential if we want to achieve any meaningful result. I took part in the panel on women’s empowerment, and it was the most exciting I have ever participated in.”
Peter Njoroge of Kenya’s ministry of industry, trade and cooperatives said: “This forum has been a major milestone event, especially for Kenya. The forum has been informative, and many ideas on e-commerce and the digital economy have been shared.”
More than 2,000 people from 60 countries took part, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, heads of international organisations, more than 800 government officials, more than 700 business leaders and representatives of the private sector, and more than 250 members of civil society, youth and academia.
The winners of the E-commerce Mobile Application Africa Award for young university students in Africa were also announced during the closing events. They were:
1st: Iwanga (Mauritania) – voice recognition for e-commerce
2nd: E-ConnectAgri (Senegal) – online agriculture market
3rd: TaxiBokko (Cameroon) – taxi-sharing app in Wolof
Hosted by the Government of Kenya at the United Nations Office in Nairobi and financially supported by the European Union and Germany, Africa eCommerce Week was held in collaboration with partners of the eTrade for all initiative.