[Read more session reports from the UNCTAD E-Commerce Week 2018]
The event, organised by Huawei and Nextrade Group, shared new data on e-commerce flows and small and medium enterprise (SME) use of e-commerce around the world, as well as its impact for more inclusive trade and growth. The panellists addressed the challenges for SMEs in the use of e-commerce for cross-border trade and discussed global best practices and new technologies to solve challenges for e-commerce in areas such as trade facilitation, logistics, and online payments.
The first panellist was Ms Ruth Bysshe (Senior European and International Public Sector Advisor at Euromonitor International) who addressed the topic of strategic market data. She explained the methodology used in the gathering of information, stressing that the data is gathered from primary and secondary sources and that all the data is cross comparable. The study presented is focused on a better understanding of the Business to Consumer (B2C) landscape. The big global picture that data shows allowed the analysts to predict the forecast growth for the period 2017–2022: Indonesia will reach 500% of growth rate within this five-year period. Before turning the spotlight on Indonesia for explaining the leading factors that contribute to such growth, she noted top emerging countries meant to experience further growth: Russia, Brazil, Poland, Argentina, Indonesia, and India to cite a few.
The methodology used in the analysis of the pillars of the Indonesian policy growth prediction focuses on the following aspects:
- Consumer profile perspectives, which are featured by tech-savvy people and behavioural attitudes more confident in the use of digital technologies.
- Infrastructure and regulation, such as e-commerce plans, the development of critical infrastructure, and the implementation of banking services in order to get more people banked.
- Payment and technology, and the relative implementation of the tools that facilitate the transactions. In this regard, she recalled the role of e-wallets, the push for fintech, and the push for going cashless and digital lending.
- Retail landscape, and the strategies used involving mobile apps and social media, which are perfect platforms for connecting local firms to their clients, as well as the implementation of cross-border e-commerce.
Bysshe concluded by identifying countries such as Pakistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, and Sri-Lanka, who she says will see further growth in the coming years. Finally, he said, by December 2018, there will be cross-border data available to analyse to provide further studies on the local and foreign players in the market.
The second panellist was Mr Simon Lacey (VP, Global Government Affairs for Huawei) who talked about trade facilitation. He recalled the role of the following World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements in facilitating trade flows:
- TFA, Trade Facilitation Agreement
- ITA, Information Technology Agreement
Lacey based his speech on a research study that will be published in the following weeks, showing how the main trade barriers are connected to efficiency and coordination and the related driving trade costs for the movement of goods and services across borders.
He argued that information and communication technology (ICT) reforms can help countries, especially developing countries, in improving their economy but he stressed that trade policymakers need to focus on the critical infrastructure that will allow their growth. On this level, countries need to invest in communication networks. Finally, he argued that these treaties are not the end of this process; indeed there is a need for higher ambitions and more focus on trade policy issues and measures for the evolution of the digital economy.
The third panellist was Ms Kati Suominen (Founder and CEO, Nextrade Group) who explored the roadmap for SME trade on digital platforms. In the study she presented, critical areas of e-commerce development were explored to better understand the e-commerce policy environment in which SMEs are engaging. Data shows that the growth of platform sellers has been higher in developing countries. Thus, the study proposes six policy areas meant to frame a policy index for ‘platform-enabled trade’ in those countries that have already adopted a policy:
- Digital infrastructure: In the era of digital regulation, Brazil seems the harbour of Internet intermediaries, while China and Mexico were noted for their cyber-courts.
- Digital regulation
- Payment regulation: Peru, Tanzania, and Brazil were noted for their implementation of interoperable operations.
- E-commerce logistic and trade facilitation: East Africa, Korea, and the United Kingdom were highlighted for their use of blockchain in customs.
- SME commerce export promotion: ProEcuador, MATRADE, and PromPeru are some of the leading projects.
- SME finance: The UK emerged in the promotion of alternative finance for SMEs mandating open banking, while Canada and Mexico were noted for women techpreneurs.
Finally, based on the findings, Suominen offered five policy recommendations:
- Diffusion of broadband and 4G systems
- Postal commerce logistics and competitive logistics
- Custom digitalisation and the relative involvement of blockchain
- Data-driven SMEs
- Digital and interoperable payments
The final speaker was Mr Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel (Director, BASIS: Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services), who gave a general overview of the public-private partnership for e-commerce strategies in Bangladesh, in their effort to ‘empower each and every one’. Basing his talk on the analysis showed by the panellists, he argued that Bangladesh is at the highest level in terms of critical infrastructure for the provision of the Internet; however, one of the main challenges that Bangladesh is facing regards payment systems and the need for better logistics platforms. Finally, he argued that the focus for their strategies are the young generations and converting their abilities into capital.
By Stefania Pia Grottola