UNCTAD eWeek 2023 |Boosting Digital Trade in Africa

While opportunities exist for enhanced trade and inclusivity through digital technologies, a concerted effort is needed to overcome the hurdles and unlock the continent’s full potential in the digital trade arena.

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At the UNCTAD eWeek 2023 session titled ‘Boosting Digital Trade in Africa – lessons for effective technical assistance (WorldBank)‘, experts shed light on the intricate landscape of digital trade in Africa. The perspectives of Pierre Sauvé, Cecilia Paradis-Gilford, the audience, and Antonia Carzaniga offer a nuanced understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and potential strategies in harnessing digital technologies for economic growth and sustainable development across the continent.

Leveraging Digital Technologies

Pierre Sauvé’s deliberation underscored the strides African economies have made in leveraging digital technologies for sustainable development. However, challenges persist, including technical gaps, connectivity issues, and the complexity of achieving harmonization in the digital space. The preference of some developing countries for preferential agreements over commitments within the WTO adds another layer of complexity to digital trade.

Regional Digital Market Integration

Cecilia Paradis-Gilford focused on the need for enhanced regional digital market integration and the development of digital skills. Challenges in Africa East, such as high digital access costs and lower usage rates, emphasize the importance of harmonization, smartphone affordability, and addressing competition in the technology sector. Additionally, recognizing variation among countries in Eastern and Southern Africa becomes pivotal in tailoring digital development efforts.


Opportunities and Strategies for Digital Trade in Africa

Antonia Carzaniga talked about the transformative potential of digital trade in Africa, emphasizing the need for a supportive ecosystem encompassing connectivity, skills development, e-payment systems, and regulatory frameworks. While some African countries have experienced growth in digital services exports, challenges remain in fully leveraging digital trade. Market openness with supportive regulatory policies and a demand-driven approach tailored to the continent’s unique requirements become focal points in seizing opportunities.

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