E-Commerce to create three million jobs in Africa - experts

Monday September 23 2019
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A customer uses an electronic card to complete payment after shopping online. E-commerce start-ups face many challenges such as low consumer digital trust. PHOTO BY ERONIE KAMUKAMA

Early this month, the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the International Trade Centre, released the Africa E-Commerce Agenda, an eight-step action plan to realise the benefits of e-commerce for the continent.

The eight action point are: refresh policies, expand connectivity, upgrade logistics, enable e-payments, manage data, grow the tech industry, coach small business and join forces.

The agenda recognises the importance of the larger ecosystem of digital technology and supporting elements.

Experts who attended the World Economic Forum on Africa said e-commerce has the potential to create as many as 3 million new jobs in Africa by 2025, according to some researchers, yet e-commerce start-ups face many obstacles, including low consumer digital trust, poor infrastructure and low regional integration.

“The scale of the challenges should not hold back effort, given that e-commerce could bring jobs for youth, new markets for rural communities and empower female entrepreneurship, among other benefits,” said Dr Elsie Kanza, head of the regional agenda, Africa and a member of the Executive Committee of World Economic Forum.

Dr Kanza added: “Action by Africa’s leaders and international partners on an agreed set of priorities can ensure e-commerce is a force for sustainable development. With e-commerce policy debate ramping up in the region and new partnerships for capacity-building on the rise, now is a critical time to consolidate focus.”

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Mr Albert M. Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry said: “E-commerce is the future, and Africa will fully leverage it to secure hers.”

Each action item identifies challenges and sets goals to help policymakers navigate the multi-dimension e-commerce landscape. It offers ways to address the challenges – including through public-private collaboration – and calls on the international development community to step up.

It suggests how African economies may best use domestic, regional and international policy, given the borderless potential of e-commerce.

“The future of trade is digital and a large component of this is e-commerce, which has the potential to transform how businesses in Africa produce, sell and consume goods and services,” ITC Executive Director Mr Arancha González said.

“This eight-point plan sets out the e-commerce ecosystem in which governments and the business community need to invest to harness the power of the digital marketplace,” Ms González said.

“Africa’s e-commerce agenda is a thoughtful, concrete and actionable work plan to promote inclusive digital trade that benefits individuals, with small businesses set to gain most,” said Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, senior vice president, Global Head of Government Engagement Primary Organisation at Visa Inc.

He added: “Visa is proud to be implementing this agenda, along with private and public sector partners, to realise the promise of e-commerce across the continent.”

Digital strategy
The African Union Commission, together with the Economic Commission for Africa and other relevant stakeholders have been tasked by governments in the region to develop a digital trade and digital economy development strategy by February 2020.

Officials said the World Economic Forum and the International Trade Centre stands ready to work with partners to advance progress.

The agenda is the result of consultations at two regional public-private dialogues.

The first was held alongside the Africa E-commerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2018.

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