CAPE TOWN - The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the International Trade Centre, on Tuesday released the Africa E-Commerce Agenda, an eight-step action plan to realise the benefits of e-commerce for the continent.
The forum 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.
Building on consultations with business leaders and experts, the Africa E-Commerce Agenda is a call to action for Africa’s political leaders, the international trade community and the development community.
“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 Elsie Kanza, head of the regional agenda - Africa, and member of the executive committee.
“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,” added Kanza.
Albert 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 policy-makers 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, according to the forum.
“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 Arancha González said.
“This eight-point plan sets out the e-commerce ecosystem in which governments and the business community need to invest in order to harness the power of the digital marketplace.”
The eight agenda action items include refreshing policies, expanding connectivity, upgrading logistics, enabling e-payments and growing the tech industry, among others.
The agenda also recognises the importance of the larger ecosystem of digital technology and supporting elements.
“Africa’s E-commerce Agenda is a thoughtful, concrete and actionable workplan 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 organization at Visa.
“Visa is proud to be implementing this agenda, along with private- and public-sector partners, to realize the promise of e-commerce across the continent,” added Marantis.
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 next year. The World Economic Forum and the International Trade Centre stand ready to work with partners to advance progress, according to a statement.