By GLADYS JOHNSON
Mr.Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne recently led a panel session organized by the African Performance Institute in Nairobi. The session which was held on the margins of the African E-commerce Week organized for the first time in Africa by UNCTAD had in attendance The Minister of Trade, Informal Sector, Consumer Affairs, Local Product Promotion and SMEs.
The high-level panel had the participation of Ms. Arancha Gonzales, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Ms. Ana B. Hinojosa, Director of Compliance and Facilitation – Director of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Senior Programme Officer – Multilateral Trade (ECOWAS Commission) and Mr. Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne, President of 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 requires a concerted and consultative approach. According to him, success in the digital entrepreneurship depends on talent, technology and capital. He shared with the audience the many efforts of the Senegalese government to support entrepreneurship in general and digital technology in particular.
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.
But he noted that new challenges are emerging and threatening the development of E-commerce in Africa which essentially is rapid technological advances, market concentration around digital giants, data and regulatory issues.
In the face of this silent revolution, he said that Africa would be at risk of further marginalization if it merely observed the transformations without anticipating them. He put forward some ideas to facilitate Africa’s positioning in e-commerce.
Among these ideas are the establishment in each country of an E-commerce Academy to strengthen skills and the establishment of an E-commerce Factory to concentrate all capacities, information and skills in a single place in order to support entrepreneurs but also to protect consumers.
Following him, the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Ms. Arancha Gonzales focused her intervention on the need to consider that it is indeed the first digital evolution and not the fourth industrial revolution that is taking place before our eyes. She pointed out that governments must ensure adequate regulation, promote entrepreneurship and innovation and foster public-private dialogue.
Her words were re-echoed by Ms. Ana 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 service component was not covered by the WCO’s work on electronic commerce but believes that training and awareness are of great importance in promoting risk-reducing behaviors.
The World Economic Forum representative pragmatically pointed out that taking into account the problems of electronic commerce can overlook the consideration of the implementation of the agreement on trade facilitation, apply the rules on electronic transactions, ensure legal protection for consumers in a harmonized context, address data governance and finally ensure the availability of secure and efficient means of payment.
Mr. Kolawole Sofola of the ECOWAS Commission closed the session by laying emphasis on skills, intellectual property and investment on e-commerce support infrastructure.
In conclusion, Minister Alioune Sarr reviewed the regional dimension with the ZLECA and the availability of adequate funding mechanisms.
While thanking the participants, API President Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne, organizer of the session, reiterated the need to focus efforts and act quickly given the risks associated with the status quo.