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Africa eCommerce 2018: Harnessing digital potentials deserve CSO collaboration - ITREALMS



The first-ever Africa eComemerce recently ended in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, REMMY NWEKE who was there reports that in harnessing digital potentials of the continent deserves collaboration of the civil societies.
Preamble:
The week-long Africa eCommerce 2018 literally commenced on Sunday, December 9th with arrival of delegates from various parts of the world including Africa, although the main event began on Monday December 10 at the conference room 2 of the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya, thus setting the capital city agog.

Organised by the United Nations body responsible for helping leverage on trades, the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) , offered an opportunity for the African Civil Society on the Information Society (ACSIS) to showcase itself, activities and participate actively,

With the theme on “Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era,” Africa eCommerce Week is a response to the growing demand for e-commerce dialogues, as the digital and mobile revolution continues to gain space in the digital economy.

Welcoming delegates to the first-ever Africa eCommerce, UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, described the event as tremendous opportunity into inclusive development which requires massive effort on the part of all in Africa and beyond, asserting that the world is at critical juncture which is why UNCTAD decided to have a meeting in Africa, for Africa and by Africa, focused on harnessing the potential of digitalization and the mobile revolution.

“It comes at an opportune moment, given that the international community, regional organizations, and individual countries are exploring ways to advance development gains from the digital economy and thereby help achieve the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.

Kituyi also noted that the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement, signed earlier in March this year, is expected to have a positive impact on intra-African trade. Pointing out that as trade increasingly moves online, there is a growing need to discuss the implications of e-commerce for African economies.


Already, in 2017, Africa had 21 million online shoppers – showing the enormous potential of the African e-commerce marketplace.

Adoption, a task for African leaders: 

Equally, Kituyi said that time is running out for African Union (AU) to do catch-up on electronic commerce (eCommerce), tasking African leaders to adopt eCommerce for the interest of the continent.
Opening his remarks at the business and civil society session at the Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kituyi said this has become imperative for a sense of urgency, decrying that Africa was being left out of the discourse on e-commerce that had already taken place elsewhere.

He also said, “That’s why this meeting is important,” just as Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments were unique products that had been much in demand by African governments.

“Faced with current global trade challenges, many countries are moving forward with e-commerce strategies, but it is important that governments include all stakeholders,” he said.

UNCTAD’s Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments focus on practical steps that national governments, with the support of donor agencies, development banks and international organizations, can take to boost online trade.

The assessments, he said, showed that vast reforms are needed to seize the development opportunities offered by e-commerce. But they also help African countries to identify opportunities, barriers and relevant policy measures required to improve their readiness to engage in and benefit from e-commerce.

The Africa eCommerce Week, which commenced on Monday would last till Friday, December 15, 2018 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, offered some insights into what GSMA is doing to improve connectivity for seamless eCommerce connectivity, especially in Africa. He lamented the unprecedented multiple taxation on telecommunications infrastructure and called on AU and member states to desist from actions capable of setting the development of the continent backwards, through uncivilized policies and regulations especially with political tendencies.

Erring tech giants must be sanctioned - ACSIS:

For ACSIS President, Dr. Cisse Kane in his remarks during the opening of business and civil society forum session penultimate Monday at the week-long Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr. Kane lamented that despite violation by some technology giants lately, without any reactions from any African leaders or governments.
Dr Cisse Kane, ACSIS Pesident
He called on African leaders to leverage technology by ensuring that erring industry giants on the continent are sanctioned as obtainable in other parts of the world.

Technology laws as it pertain to consumers, for instance, is not much difference when it comes to Africa, so he does not get it when African consumers are exploited by international technology companies like Facebook, and Google, without any representation from the continent’s leaders, underscoring the fact that those largely affected by this lack of concern are the youth and women.

Sanctions realized from these international technology firms will help in supporting youth innovation in Africa via investment on startups.

… Collaboration is key among CSOs:

At the two-hour session on Masterclass on consumers protection and role of civil society, where Vice President , ACSIS who doubles as | Lead Strategist, DigitalSENSE Africa Media stood in for ACSIS president at the panel in room3, with the likes of Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD, Martine Julsaint Kidane; Head, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD, Teresa Moreira; Secretary-General, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International), Pradeep S. Mehta and CEO, Suku Technologies Ltd (eDuBoost), Tsonam Akpeloo on the panel, despite the short notice.

Nweke went a step further in his presentation queried the inability of African leaders to sanction any international technology companies as if there were no data infractions on the continent just as he reminded participants that ACSIS in stepping out from the norm, this year organized a mobile app competition with top finalists from 10 countries in Africa, and top three will be presented to participants on Friday, 14, December 2018, thereby extended invitation to all to grace the occasion at Room 2.

He also advocated for more collaboration among civil societies on the continent and imploring those yet to join ACSIS to leverage the website for more information even as he was available for interactions.

Nweke, we began his presentation with the genesis of ACSIS birth in Geneva and delivered in Tunisia during the two-phased World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), applauding the Senegalese government among others for their support, moreso on the app competition for sponsorship of participants.

Largely, the “Master Class on Consumer Protection” provided the opportunity for civil society organizations to discuss with UNCTAD experts the main consumer protection challenges emerging in Africa’s digital economy landscape.

There was also session on Civil Society Hive Talks for Africa, where burning issues of consumer protection were raised at Room 14 on Thursday with UNCTAD encouraging more participation of civil society groups, while VP Nweke’s intervention was mainly on the emerging CSO leveraging ACSIS to grow, with the believe we are stronger together.

E-commerce in Africa and women empowerment:

This session saw the Regional Coordinator for ACSIS in North Africa, Aicha Jerdi sharing more with respective to ACSIS support for women and revealed that she has the mandate of ACSIS President to organize the second phase of the mobile application competition, exclusively for women in 2019 and used the opportunity to seek support from other parties and donors.

Whilst in attendance, ACSIS Vice President, Remmy Nweke, urged participants and parents particularly to ensure that they give equal footing to their children despite of any gender, pointing out that though there a cultural inhibitions on acceptance and propelling of women empowerment, he stressed that when family do their bit in encouraging women, even young boys will have respect for their sisters amongst women in general, insisting that charity begins at home.
Remmy Nweke, Vice President, ACSIS
This session spoke to the fact that women have unequal access to economic opportunities, thus as digital technologies dramatically reshape economies; gender divide has been grown wider. Hence, digital technologies have become a powerful force for social and economic development, delivering substantial benefits for both individuals and society.

Conclusion:

The Africa eCommerce 2018 was a rich event worthy of participation by ACSIS, despite its internal shortcomings, above all, more better structured panels for the CSOs must be put in place in addition to closing ranks among the CSOs across the connect.

In continuation of this agenda, it may be vital to sustain this event, at least for the next year before tinkering of moving it away from Kenya or even to other parts of the continent and considering that its not primarily an African originated event, AU may liaise with the likes of ACSIS for an African alternative.

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