By Sharon Atieno

Though researchers estimate that e-commerce has the potential to create as many as 3 million new jobs in Africa by 2025, e-commerce start-ups face many obstacles, including low consumer digital trust, poor infrastructure and low regional integration.

In a bid to solve these challenges and speed up progress of e-commerce in the continent, the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC) recently launched Africa E-commerce Action Agenda.

“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; 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.”

The Action Agenda is an eight-point plan which calls to action Africa’s political leaders, the international trade community and the development community.

While it encourages Africa’s policy makers to pursue e-commerce priorities at multiple levels, it also calls for firm anchoring of e-commerce within the negotiations on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and encourages more African governments to join the plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The eight agenda action items include: refreshing policies, expanding connectivity, upgrading logistics, enabling e-payments, managing data, growing the tech industry, coaching small businesses and joining forces.

“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.”

Each of the eight areas covered identifies current challenges, sets goals and offers recourse to help reach them. The agenda further recognizes that for any individual e-commerce business to prosper, a wide ecosystem of digital technology and supporting companies must also flourish, with a mix of local and global action needed if growing cross-border activity is the goal.

The agenda is the result of consultations at two regional public-private dialogues. The first was held alongside the Africe eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2018 while the second took place during the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in May 2019.