[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
The session was organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and moderated by Mr Anders Aeroe, director, Division of enterprises and institutions at ITC, who stressed that e-commerce has been growing fast worldwide and ITC has reflected on e-trade strategies and e-trade for impact. ITC works with a range of stakeholders, from governments to market partners, that have different ways to deal with technology. ITC’s strategies are to set the framework of techno innovation impact and the opportunities for business. The strategies focus on three areas: sharing action and information, empowering business, and boosting entrepreneurialism in e-commerce.
Ms Vanessa Erogbogbo, head of the Women & trade programme at ITC, spoke about a platform dedicated to contributing to the growth of the number of women doing business. She coordinates projects, with partners like eBay and Equals, to bridge digital divides. She believes that the greater participation of women in the economy has proved essential for growth.
Mr Fabien Staechelin, business development manager at eBay, recognises that for the first time in history patterns of trade have changed due to e-trade. In traditional business, large corporations commonly dominate commerce. With digitalisation, he explained, we have the opportunity to share knowledge, but also to give visibility to small entrepreneurial people, including marginalised groups and women. ‘eBay enables everybody to participate in e-trade.’ The platform has changed trade in developing markets, augmenting entrepreneurship as never seen before. Businesses on online platforms are more prone to export than traditional businesses. A study eBay led indicated that 97% of businesses on the platform export on average to 30 countries. Traditional companies normally export to a single-digit number of countries.
Erogbogbo commented that the share of women in trade has doubled with e-commerce. Online markets have created more inclusion compared to traditional businesses. Staechelin said that the partnership eBay has with ITC aims to have more entrepreneurial women on their platform. The platform selected some projects to boost the participation of women in e-trade. The selected women have had free access to a store on the platform. They have had contact with a sales team and have participated in a webinar offered in every three weeks to learn how be marketable and visible online. He said the participation of women on the platform improves household revenues in developed countries and especially in developing countries.
Mr Martin Labbé, senior officer, Institutional development, ITC, stressed that despite the bad publicity about outsourcing, ITC has supported it in the markets where it is not possible to find a prepared workforce. Sharing economy platforms have been serving the purpose of outsourcing and have been growing quickly in the past few years. Their aim when supporting platforms is to scale the business.
Mr Babacar Birane, co-founder and CEO of Baobab Entrepreneurship in Senegal, started by affirming that Senegal is a service-driven economy. The impact of the digital economy there is the highest in Africa – almost the same as in developed countries. The government has invested in a favourable digital system and announced that it aims to invest $500 million in the digital economy. The president wants to do that on a macro-economic level.
Mr James Howe, senior adviser, e-solutions, ITC, presented payment solutions, logistics, and a lack of appropriate skills as the three most common barriers to e-trade in the developing world. His team works on advising and training people to overcome these common barriers. In recent years, they have worked in Morocco, Syria, and Rwanda. He noticed that in Rwanda, for instance, the government strategy is very forward looking regarding digital infrastructure, and e-commerce has been a driver for economic growth. The challenges are related to the fact that only a third of households have access to the Internet, even if the mobile coverage is broad. This obliges companies to think about creative solutions, such as using text messages instead of Internet applications.
By Ana Corrêa