Africa Must Anticipate Changes in Electronic Commerce or Risk Getting Left Behind, Industry Experts Warn

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Africa risks further marginalization if the region does not work to anticipating changes in the field of electronic commerce (e-commerce).

This is according to a panel held by Mr. Alioune Sarr, Senegal’s Minister of Trade, Informal Sector, Consumer Affairs, Local Product Promotion and SMEs.

The event, which was held this week in Nairobi, Kenya, was organized by the African Performance Institute, led by Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne, Reporter of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) for cross border transactions.

The panel was held on the margins of the African E-commerce Week organized for the first time in Africa by UNCTAD.

The high-level panel featured the participation of Ms. Arancha Gonzales, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Ms. Ana B. Hinojosa, Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the World Customs Organization (WCO), Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Senior Programme Officer for Multilateral Trade (ECOWAS Commission) and Mr. Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne, President of the African Performance Institute (API).

Opening the meeting, the Minister described the issue of electronic commerce as a national, regional, continental and global issue. He spoke about the cross-cutting nature of the issue, which therefore requires a concerted and consultative approach.

During his keynote address, Mr. Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne also spoke about the challenge of making E-commerce a lever for creating value for African economies. He stressed that most of the barriers to electronic commerce have been gradually contained over the past decade.

On her part, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Ms. Gonzales stated that governments must ensure adequate regulation, promote entrepreneurship and foster public-private dialogue.

Her words were echoed by Ms. Hinojosa, Director of the World Customs Organization, who highlighted the growing importance of cross-border electronic commerce and the challenges it poses for customs administrations, which must ensure security, facilitation and revenue collection.

She pointed out that not all countries had the same priority with regard to electronic commerce. She also mentioned that the services component was not covered by the WCO’s work on electronic commerce. She also believes that training and awareness are of great importance in promoting risk-reducing behaviours.

Mr. Kolawole Sofola of ECOWAS closed the panel by placing renewed emphasis on skills, intellectual property and investment in e-commerce to support infrastructure development.

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