ECOWAS E-commerce Experts meet to discuss the development of the Regional E-commerce Strategy

The ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) convened at a meeting on 18 November 2021 with E-commerce focal points from the region to present the project on the development of the regional E-commerce strategy. 

UNCTAD published a report, reporting the spike in sales of about $26.7 trillion in 2019. This they said was made possible because unconnected businesses were allowed to access the global market. Countries around the world are adopting policies to integrate digital trade into their economic development strategies to promote and accelerate inclusive growth.

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Mr. Kolawole Sofola, the Acting Director for Trade of the ECOWAS, was present to speak on behalf of the commissioner of trade, customs, and free movement. He brought the people’s attention to the continent’s development of e-commerce as compared to the western world. This assessment was conducted by UNCTAD using several stigmata including e-commerce infrastructure and services, payment, trade logistics, legal and regulatory frameworks, skills development, and financing of the e-trade economy. He counted these shortcomings by making known the efforts being made to tackle the challenge of e-commerce development.

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Mrs. Cécile Barayre-El Shami, UNCTAD’s representative, spoke of the longstanding collaboration between the ECOWAS Commission and her institution. She recalled that the regional strategy is aimed at assisting the region in its efforts to use technology to accelerate structural change, development, and foster regional integration, including through economic diversification, job creation, and more inclusive trade activities. She stated that UNCTAD has undertaken some activities to accompany the ECOWAS Member States in their efforts to develop e-commerce, including E-Trade readiness assessment and strategies which contributed to creating a baseline for the e-commerce expansion in the beneficiary countries. 

The overall objective of the meeting was to introduce to the respective nations e-commerce focal points the ECOWAS and UNCTAD had come up with, as well as present to them the steps envisaged towards the preparation of the regional e-commerce strategy. Both ECOWAS Commission and UNCTAD stressed the critical role of national focal for the successful development of the regional strategy by facilitating the engagement of national stakeholders. 

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In the course of the meeting, ECOWAS Commission and UNCTAD provided national Experts with an overview of the project and respond to the issues raised after the presentations concerning the methodology, the responsibilities, and the timeline of the project implementation. 

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The strategy will take into consideration the African Union (AU) led initiatives in the area of e-commerce and digital development, the new African Continental Free-Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other relevant programs/projects implemented at the national level and international level.

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