Digitization is bringing new opportunities to Africa. Across the continent, new digital businesses are emerging rapidly and growing fast. But with Africa also epitomizing the digital divide between the connected and the unconnected, it is critical to seize the chance to drive development for African economies and their populations, so that no-one is left behind.
As the United Nations body responsible for helping leverage trade to deliver development, UNCTAD is next week organizing the debut edition of Africa eCommerce Week. The 10-14 December conference in Nairobi is the first regional incarnation of UNCTAD’s global eCommerce Week, held annually in Geneva.
Under the theme “Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era”, Africa eCommerce Week is a response to the growing demand for e-commerce dialogues, as the digital and mobile revolution continues apace.
It comes at an opportune moment, given that the international community, regional organizations, and individual countries are exploring ways to advance development gains from the digital economy and thereby help achieve the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Moreover, the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement, signed in March this year, is expected to have a positive impact on intra-African trade. As trade increasingly moves online, there is a growing need to discuss the implications of e-commerce for African economies.
Already, in 2017, Africa had 21 million online shoppers – showing the enormous potential of the African e-commerce marketplace.
“Turning this tremendous opportunity into inclusive development requires a massive effort on the part of all of us – in Africa and beyond,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
“We are at critical juncture – and that it is why UNCTAD decided to have a meeting in Africa, for Africa and by Africa, focused on harnessing the potential of digitalization and the mobile revolution.”
For more on why these issues matter, both for Africa and more widely for development, you can read a recent op-ed by Dr. Kituyi here, and a series of posts by him and other authors in the UNCTAD Dialogue on African Development and the Digital Economy.
Africa eCommerce Week, which will take place at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, is co-organized by the African Union and the European Union. Hosted by the Government of Kenya, it is part of joint efforts by partners in the eTrade for all initiative.
More than 1,000 participants from 48 countries are scheduled to head to the event to share their experiences and success stories for leveraging e-commerce for the development of African economies.
Senior political leaders will be joined by representatives of 330 businesses, including 50 CEOs and other entrepreneurs from start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, among them African graduates of the eFounders Initiative facilitated by UNCTAD. Also taking part will be civil society delegates and officials from more than 20 international organizations, and eTrade for all partners.
Conference sessions will tackle the following challenges:
- Accelerating the e-trade readiness of African countries
- Expanding access to affordable and reliable ICT infrastructure and services
- Fostering skills for the digital economy
- Boosting financial inclusion through mobile money
- Improving access to finance for digital entrepreneurs
Other questions will include online trust – how to divide the good, the illicit, and the mislabeled – taxation in the digital economy, consumer protection, a single window at the borders, e-commerce and commodity dependence, trade logistics, digital identity, and much more.
UNCTAD will also launch its new UNCTAD B2C E-Commerce Index 2018 – Focus on Africa during the conference, and there will be plenty of opportunities for the media to interact with participants, including press conferences, for which a schedule will follow.
For media attending the conference, there will be a dedicated space at the conference venue, and twice-daily shuttle service from central Nairobi, details of which will be made available beforehand.
Registration is free but required in order to attend. Please click here for more details, and here for other practical information.
To help navigate the conference, UNCTAD has created an event app that can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play. Please note that the app’s networking function is only available to registered conference participants.