Covid-19 News


As COVID-19 reshapes the world of work, ILO is helping vulnerable people in Indonesia to stay competitive and improve their livelihoods.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (ILO News) – Sitting at her laptop, Laura Lesmana Wijaya is busy building her first online shop. The portal will be used to promote and sell household products made by local blind and deaf people.

Until now the embroidered cooking gloves, tablecloths, and doormats produced by these workers have been sold through bazaars and exhibitions, but Wijaya has greater ambitions. “Having an online shop can boost the sales of these products through online marketing and transactions and, in turn, improve the livelihoods of its members,” she said.

Using digital applications is not new for Laura. She specialises in training deaf teachers to teach sign language to those who can hear, and is familiar with a variety of online applications.

The 29-year-old, who is herself deaf, was one of 19 people with disabilities selected to take part in ILO training programmes on creating online shop applications and online shop administration. The sessions covered key skills including online store design, platforms, databases, transaction and customer management, inventory and sales administration as well as digital marketing. Coaching by business mentors and technical advice from programmers was also available. Wijaya participated in the training on creating online shop applications.

The aim was to improve incomes and create more sustainable livelihoods in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the virus has made the training even more relevant due to many businesses being forced to close their physical locations.

In total, 624 people from throughout Indonesia joined the online training that took place in six batches from May to August 2020. As well as the group with disabilities, the trainees included business owners and laid-off workers. 58 percent of participants were women.

The programmes were offered as part of the ILO’s Women in STEM Project , which aims to help women gain quality employment and support their career advancement, particularly related to information technology. They were delivered in partnership with the Indonesian Retail Association (APRINDO).

ILO research has found that women workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis, both in their paid work and in the additional care responsibilities they have had to take on.

“Women are more vulnerable to lose their jobs compared to men as they are employed in the worst affected sectors such as accommodation, food, sales and manufacturing,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, the ILO’s Project Officer for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). “While both women and men have lost their income, we prioritize assistance to women as they are more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 outbreak.”

Laura agrees that women – particularly those with an added hurdle created by disabilities – can be particularly vulnerable to changes created by new technology. She sees the training as a chance to update and upgrade her skills and improve her chances of staying competitive as COVID-19 reshapes the world of work.

“One of the reasons I joined the training is to show that women, including women with disabilities, are adaptive to the changes. If we are given a chance, we can also improve our digital skills,” Laura said.

The Women in STEM Workforce Readiness and Development Programme (2017-2020) funded by the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation seeks to provide women in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines with critical soft and technical STEM-related skills, employability and leadership training.


The Third ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit convened today with government officials and business leaders advocating for inclusive business strategies that support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to recover from economic setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the South-East Asia region. The region already faced an ambitious challenge to reach its SDG targets by 2030 – there are concerns that this may be moving even further out of reach.

Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Summit marked the continued commitment of the ASEAN Community, including government representatives, the private sector, investors and development organizations, to create an enabling ecosystem for inclusive business.

“As countries look to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic – including by supporting small and medium enterprises, promoting women’s economic empowerment and accelerating the digital transformation – inclusive businesses have the potential to be a driving force for transformation towards a green, inclusive and resilient ASEAN,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Kaveh Zahedi in his opening remarks.

The Summit also introduced the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN and explored its practical application on a national and regional level. The Guidelines were endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) during the 52nd AEM Meeting in August 2020 and serve as an outline on how inclusive businesses can be supported at all levels and the institutional requirements to do so.

“The inclusive business model compels us to connect the dynamics between the government, private sector and low-income and poor communities, including the micro and small enterprises in achieving national and regional objectives.  The Guidelines provide a greater understanding of these dynamics for ASEAN Member States and the region collectively to move on to consider integrating inclusive business in their national and regional policies,” said Mr. Bountheung Douangsavanh, Chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME).

As the sectoral body coordinating MSME development in the region, the ACCMSME, with the support of ESCAP, iBAN and OECD has been at the forefront of promoting the inclusive business model in ASEAN and advocating its alignment with the MSME-development policies. The Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN is a culmination of past initiatives, building on interactions and lessons learnt since 2018.

Leveraging the wealth of expertise in the region, the Summit also explored partnerships in knowledge, digital platforms, investments and facilitation that enable the growth of inclusive business in ASEAN and their social impact. As business leaders and governments make progress in promoting inclusive business, delegates discussed how they can work together to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 and how women, overrepresented among the poor, can be better included in value chains as well as the role of social enterprises contributing to inclusive business models.

“The current crisis shows us that inclusive businesses are more resilient against such external shocks and contribute to a speedy and sustainable recovery. It is therefore of utmost importance that the framework conditions for such businesses are being improved and companies are being encouraged to develop their business model in a direction that not only serves the needs of the company but also the needs of the most vulnerable and poor in the communities,” said Mr. Christian Jahn, Executive Director, iBAN.

Inclusive businesses provide goods, services, and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis, to people living at the base of the pyramid making them part of the value chain of companies as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers. Since 2017, ASEAN governments have started developing policies to encourage more inclusive businesses to emerge and scale up. At the same time, business leaders, the finance community and other stakeholders have stepped up to the task of developing inclusive business models for economic growth and social impact at scale.

“Recovering from the COVID-19 crisis will require a whole-of-society effort. Working hand in hand with governments and all stakeholders, businesses can contribute to a recovery that is sustainable, resilient and inclusive by embracing business models and taking operational decisions that are in line with international recommendations on responsible business conduct,” shared Ms. Cristina Tebar Less, Head of Responsible Business Conduct Centre, OECD.

Read the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN:


We need trust, fairness, and to include women in decision-making.


Anyone with a mobile phone understands the potential of digital services at your fingertips.

And yet we also know that digital technologies are not always inclusive or fair. Women, in particular, have not equally benefited from digital technologies in their everyday lives. This is especially the case in financial services in Africa – and especially now in the time of COVID-19.

Improving choices for women

The economic activity of women and girls often goes unrecognized. However, women are actively engaged as economic actors across value chains: as producers, consumers, business owners, or community members who influence markets and policy (UNHLP 2016).

Creating equitable financial and economic systems recognizes women’s role as pillar of the economy and enables them to contribute in even larger ways, to the benefit of everyone — by to saving for the future, taking credit to fund a business, or making school payments. Digital technology can help do this. But it must be applied in a way that is inclusive and fair.

Creating an inclusive financial sector

Many variables impact the creation of an inclusive financial sector. For example, investment in necessary interoperable payment infrastructure, equitable ID systems, and rules that promote access and trust of services. The G7 Partnership for Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa is an excellent example of how governments, development actors, and services providers are coming together to address each variable, so the outcome is more than the sum of its parts.

UNCDF Policy Accelerator‘s role is to support governments reform their policies and regulations in order to accelerate digital financial inclusion and specifically women’s. There is no simple process to accelerate digital financial inclusion, but it highly depends on two crucial factors:

1. Policies and regulations

Policies and regulations play a critical part in promoting women’s financial inclusion because, they create space for digital financial services that women need, while keeping the system secure. Government policies have an outsized impact on how inclusive markets develop and leverage new technologies. Smart policies and regulations can address the built-in biases that often prevent women from accessing and using financial services.

There are many policies and regulations the impact financial inclusion, and among them several ‘basic’ regulatory enablers that are pre-conditions to large scale digital financial inclusion. Of these ‘basic’ regulatory enablers, making it easier to open an account and designing consumer protection rules to promote trust and fairness are critical to women’s economic empowerment.

Easy account opening

Account opening should be widely accessible, with or without identification. This is made possible if regulations are risk-based and establish thresholds limits that are affordable for women. There is a clear global precedent for risk-based account opening standards. Many markets need to adapt these to the local context.

Trust and fairness

Promoting trust and fairness is equally important but perhaps less clear. Defining ‘trust’ and ‘fairness’ in financial consumer protection regulation can be a murky process. Yet this should not dissuade regulators from doing so. Women are more likely to use new services when their privacy is protected and have recourse when mistreated. Services providers are responsible for building this trust, while governments are responsible for setting standards of practice and holding providers accountable.

2. Women are part of the process

Women need to be in the room when important decisions are made.

Governments should support female policymakers and regulators to develop their skills to design, govern, and adapt rules that promote inclusive financial services. Building the capacity of women in decision making roles is critical but also insufficient. Women’s groups and their representatives should also be consulted in designing and implementing policies that will directly impact them. This is particularly the case for consumer protection regulations, where privacy, transparency, and fairness are addressed directly.

It is also in the interest of governments to strive to understand the unique experiences of different groups of women in their markets so policy reforms are more targeted and meaningful. For example, women in cities will have a different experience than those in rural areas, while female entrepreneurs will likely suffer different limitations than stay-at-home mothers.

The process of empowering women to control their financial lives will not end with a single regulation or access to identification. Government reforms need to sustain the pace of change that is accelerating with the rise of digital services. That’s how today’s reforms will pay off in the long term.

UNCDF’s commitment

As a member of the G7 Partnership for Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa, UNCDF is committed to pursuing these avenues of change through its Africa Policy Accelerator project. In collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the French Ministry of Finance, the Policy Accelerator supports governments to design (or improve) consumer protection and account access regulations to serve women’s financial needs in Africa. We will do that by, among other activities, helping governments learn more about women’s needs in their local markets through research, while ensuring that women have a seat at the table.


The WIPO Pearl terminology database has added some 1,500 new COVID-19-related terms in 10 languages, helping innovators targeting new coronavirus treatments and diagnostics with a baseline set of terms and their multilingual equivalents. This advancement will foster international collaboration and promote easier access to information in patent documents and other public resources produced around the world.

From today, WIPO Pearl now contains 147 key concepts related to COVID-19, amounting to nearly 1,500 terms as each concept is given in 10 languages. They are primarily drawn from the fields of biology, medicine (especially epidemiology and diagnostics), and public health and each concept is provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, which are also the official languages of WIPO’s International Patent System. The aim is to help provide consistency and clarity across different languages regarding key terminology of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Innovation is increasingly global in nature, so a verified multilingual set of commonly understood COVID-19-related terms creates a knowledge base that helps researchers access and build upon work created in another language,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “WIPO is providing this upgraded service in support of the global drive to find new treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus, which is the quintessential global challenge requiring mutual comprehension and cooperation.”

These COVID-19 terms are available in the WIPO Pearl database, which contains nearly 200,000 terms in total on subjects ranging from biopesticides, chatbots and green chemistry to nanosatellites, quantum computing and virtual reality. The terms also exist in a separate stand-alone glossary on the WIPO Pearl website. The glossary is divided into topics and, within each topic, concepts are listed according to the relations among them. This allows related concepts to be viewed together and helps to understand how they are associated – something that would not be possible with an alphabetical listing.

The glossary also contains links to the full terminology record in WIPO Pearl for each concept, where definitions, multilingual equivalents, contexts illustrating term usage and meaning, and term reliability scores can be found, as well as “concept maps” which graphically and dynamically depict how each concept relates to other concepts.

The collection of COVID-19 terms is also linked to PATENTSCOPE: a one-click search launched either from the glossary or from the WIPO Pearl application (Linguistic Search or Concept Map Search) that allows any patents containing these terms, in any of the 10 languages, to be easily retrieved. A researcher could, for example, start with an English term and, by using the validated equivalents for the term in other languages, be able to retrieve relevant patents in up to nine other languages.

Since these COVID-19 terms are of particular relevance currently, WIPO has made them available for free download. Users may access a .pdf file containing the terms in all of the languages and a definition in English for each concept, or an .xml file that allows the collection of COVID-19 terminology to be integrated into other applications, such as computer-assisted translation software or data mining tools.

Seventy bilingual terminology records (200 terms) in the collection were provided by students at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. WIPO-PCT language experts provided the remaining 77 records in the collection and added 1,300 terms in different languages to ensure that all 147 concepts are provided in all 10 languages of WIPO Pearl. Further concepts will be added to the collection in the coming months.

More about WIPO Pearl

WIPO Pearl was launched in 2014 to promote accurate and consistent use of scientific and technical terms across the ten languages of publication of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO-administered International Patent System, making it easier to search and share scientific and technical knowledge across different languages. The database, developed by experienced WIPO language experts and terminologists, now contains over 190,000 terms. The interface is available in 10 languages and also in a mobile-friendly form.

Scientific and technical terms can be searched in 45 different language combinations, offering the possibility to search between European and Asian languages, as well as between any of these languages and Arabic. This makes WIPO Pearl unique amongst the current offering of language resources available freely on the Web. Knowledge-rich contexts are provided for each term to help illustrate what it means and how it is used.

Also unique to WIPO Pearl are Concept Maps, which allow the user to browse domain knowledge by exploring links between concepts. These links have been researched and manually entered by WIPO terminologists to show concepts that are broader or narrower in scope than other concepts. Users also have the option to exploit information displayed in subsets of Concept Maps – so-called Concept Paths – to conduct combined keyword searches in PATENTSCOPE, WIPO’s patent database. PATENTSCOPE can also be accessed directly from the hit-list of results obtained by conducting a traditional search by term in the Linguistic Search interface.

In addition to providing human-built Concept Maps, WIPO Pearl leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to generate so-called Concept Clouds – suggested new clusters of relations between concepts. WIPO Pearl is the first terminology database to feature such an innovation.

WIPO Pearl is also integrated with WIPO Translate, WIPO’s internally developed machine translation engine featuring innovative AI neural machine translation technology, so as to offer the user machine-translated suggestions when a term is not available in one of the target languages.

An ever-growing network of partners worldwide, including universities and government bodies, now helps to populate WIPO Pearl with new terms, whilst subject field experts in the partner institutions check the accuracy of terms in their field of specialization and raise the term reliability score.


The social and economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our efforts to improve livelihoods and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The early responses to restraining the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted all transport operations, leading to severe disruptions of supply chains and trade flows worldwide. UNECE estimates that inland transport volumes may fall by up to 40 per cent in the pan-European region in 2020.

In a statement released today, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (UNECLAC), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) stress that international transport and integrated supply chains are critical in recovering from COVID-19 achieving the SDGs.

The signatories call on all Governments to maximize the contribution of international trade and supply chains to a sustainable socio-economic recovery through greater use of international legal instruments and standards, as well as strengthened regional and sectoral cooperation.

United Nations instruments – such as the UNECE-administered TIR Convention and its eTIR International System, and the CMR Convention – facilitate the use of a safe and efficient intermodal transport system. These instruments allow for moving cargo across borders without requiring physical checks and for reducing contact between people.

Single Windows enable traders to communicate electronically with all agencies involved. International standards for data exchange, such as those developed by UN/CEFACT also help reduce physical contact and enhance streamlined processes.

The signatories support further digitalization of trade and customs procedures, using global United Nations standards, to ensure the fast and secure exchange of data and information concerning cargo and means of transport and contactless clearances.

They encourage all governments to take a risk-based approach to restoring air, inland and maritime connectivity with minimal restrictions, while preventing the spread of COVID-19, protecting the health and safety of drivers, crew and border agency personnel, as well as strengthening public confidence in trade and transport means.

They call upon Governments to embark on the process to review international and regional trade agreements, as deemed necessary, and ensure they contain provisions to facilitate trade and transport in times of crisis and pandemics.

The signatories call upon member States to take appropriate action in facilitating and dematerializing trade and transport value chains.

They also reiterated support to member States to ensure a sustainable socio-economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source :


This Online repository provides access to written contributions submitted by participants to the Policy Hackathon on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and Other Trade Agreements. The contributions featured in this Online repository have been made available as received and are under the sole responsibility of their author(s). Upon submission, participants have declared that their contribution is their own autonomous work, that all the sources have been correctly cited and listed as references and that any eventual errors or inaccuracies are the fault of the authors. The contributions do not represent the views of the United Nations or that of any other Policy Hackathon organizing and participating institutions. The inclusion of the contributions in the online repository does not constitute an endorsement of the contents by the United Nations and Policy Hackathon organizers. The contributions are unedited work in progress willingly contributed by their authors during the Policy Hackathon and are publicly accessible for all to use at their own risk with reference to the author(s). It is hoped that this emerging body of knowledge will provide a useful basis and inspiration for trade policymakers and negotiators to develop regional and other trade agreements that can increase trade resilience in times of crisis and pandemic and support recovery and building back better. To make it easier to browse through, the contributions have been grouped according to different topics/categories. Contributions that have been identified by the Expert Group as standing out in terms of quality, relevance, comprehensiveness and/or originality are identified with a “ ”. A brief overview of contributions is also available here.


The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday launched a new COVID-19 cross-border trade report urging governments on the continent to adopt and harmonize policies that will help continent strike an appropriate balance between curbing the spread of the virus and facilitating emergency and essential trade.

Titled Facilitating cross-border trade through a coordinated African response to COVID-19, the report says continued inefficiencies and disruptions to cross-border trade presented significant challenges for Africa’s fight against COVID-19, and risked holding back the continent’s progress towards the attainment of the sustainable development and goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Maintaining trade flows as much as possible during the pandemic will be crucial in providing access to essential food and much-needed medical items and in limiting negative impacts on jobs and poverty, said Mr. Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) that penned the report.

To curtail the rapid spread of the virus, African nations introduced lockdowns and various restrictions that negatively affected cross-border and transit freight transportation.

The border restrictions and regulations have helped minimize infections and deaths across the continent but had a negative impact on cross-border trade and economic activity, hindering both significantly.

The report recommends that African nations should cooperate and harmonize COVID-19 border regulations to reduce delays, while not undermining the safety of trade. It proposes fast tracking implementation of existing Regional Economic Community (REC) COVID-19 guidelines, including establishing regional coordinating committees with the primary task of addressing operational issues at national borders.

In addition, the report says regional efforts must also be coordinated at continental level through the African Union Commission. A common COVID-19 AU Protocol on trade and transport is needed given the overlap in membership of RECs and shared trade facilitation goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In developing such a protocol, the experiences and best practices of RECs need to be taken into account,” said Mr. Karingi during the launch.

A common African Union COVID-19 test certificate for truck drivers and crew members will be crucial to facilitate movement of essential personnel across borders with the least possible interference.

Amid the pandemic, African economies should not let COVID-19 undermine regional integration and must maintain the momentum and ambition of the AfCFTA process, said Mr. Karingi.

Panelists and participants agreed that digital solutions are crucial in helping continent address outstanding cross border trade issues for example electronic cargo tracking systems, electronic signatures and documents, and the use of mobile banking and payment systems to support safe and efficient trade.

“COVID-19 has increased the urgency for us to do better and find innovative solutions to facilitate safe and efficient cross-border trade. It will be important for Africa to maintain and upgrade these solutions post COVID-19, to lower trade costs, boost competitiveness, and support more resilient cross-border trade in the face of future shocks,” said Mr. Karingi.

For his part, Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Lovemore Bingandadi said COVID-19 lessons should be used to improve efficiencies in cross-border trade on the continent.

“Africa’s response could have been better had they been done at continental level when the pandemic struck. Nevertheless, it has given us an opportunity to address in a coordinated way longstanding cross-border trade challenges that we face,” he said.

Mr. Bingandadi emphasized continental solutions were the best way to deal with the border inefficiencies and cross-border trade issues, adding the AfCFTA would go a long way in helping address these.

UNCTAD’s Technology and Logistics Director, Shamika Sirimanne, for her part emphasized the importance of innovation and technology to fight the pandemic and in helping Africa building back better in the aftermath of the crisis.

“COVID-19 has shown us the need for information-sharing and use of technologies for coordinated responses in the area of trade and transport connectivity,” said Ms. Sirimanne.

In her remarks today at the official opening of the final week of the Virtual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu underscored that information and communications technologies are critical to aviation’s role in global UN Sustainable Development Goal attainment, and to how air transport will build back better post-COVID-19.

“Increased air transport digitalization promotes critical efficiencies and capabilities which improve our sector’s capabilities as a catalyst for socio-economic and sustainability benefits,” Dr. Liu stated. “This is especially relevant given that ICAO-compliant air services and international connectivity are already improving global outcomes toward the achievement of 15 of the 17 SDGs.”

Summarizing the devastation COVID-19 is now wreaking on global air connectivity, Dr. Liu also strongly emphasized how digital capabilities will be critical to air transport’s post-pandemic recovery.

“Whether we are talking entirely new technologies, or new applications of existing technologies, digital, AR, and AI solutions are now at hand to permit us to pre-screen passengers and cargo more extensively than ever before, for both health and security risks, and with greater efficiency and less disruption,” Dr. Liu said. “They also provide the foundations for the next generation of autonomous aircraft, drones, and the transformations that Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) will lead to in terms of personal mobility, e-commerce, civilian and community services, and many other applications.”

Dr. Liu also reiterated that, with innovation and digitization set to play such an important role in how we restart and recover on a more sustainable path, and at an ever-increasing rate, ICAO is embracing it today as never before.

“We’re working to achieve greater flexibility, responsiveness, and efficiency where the assessment and rule-making on emerging technologies is concerned, and an important part of my message to you today is that you can count on us to be your committed and effective partner going forward in all things innovation related,” Dr. Liu commented. “We have a great deal we can accomplish together, and ICAO will continue to rely on the partnership and vision of the ITU as we progress together toward a greener, more sustainable, and more innovative digital future for coming generations.”


E-Residency is readymade for remote working entrepreneurs, so at a time when many people around the world are looking to start their own small businesses or shift to freelance work online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia’s groundbreaking programme is more relevant than ever. Having access to Estonia’s digital nation enables 70,000 e-residents from over 170 countries to run their businesses entirely online from anywhere.

What is e-Residency?

E-Residency is a digital identity issued by the Republic of Estonia to people outside its borders, which enables them to securely verify themselves online and access all tools needed to launch an online business.  E-residents can register an EU-based company within a day, digitally sign and encrypt documents and contracts in line with the highest EU standards, access a range of business banking and payment options, and declare and pay taxes online. Last but not least, they join a global community of like-minded remote entrepreneurs and startup founders from around the world.

The programme is especially attractive for location-independent entrepreneurs who want to set up a company based in the trusted, transparent business environment of Estonia and by extension the EU. E-residents run businesses in a range of sectors, including IT and digital marketing, consulting, translation, recruitment, and eCommerce. Like Christoph Huebner, originally from Germany, who runs his insurance startup while travelling around the world. Or Glasgow-based Vicky Brock, who set up her Estonian company to keep her business in the EU after Brexit. Read more e-resident stories on our blog.

How did COVID-19 impact e-Residency and e-residents?

Despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, e-Residency applications and access to Estonia’s e-services have been unaffected. E-residents have continued to access all digital services in the country, including the company registration portal, tax board website (EMTA), online banking, and more. Due to travel restrictions or border closures, some e-residents have at times faced disruptions in picking up their digital IDs, but we continue to work hard along with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to alleviate and address these.

The e-Residency team has also shifted our 2020 priorities and activities as a result of COVID-19 by focusing on how we can help e-resident entrepreneurs withstand the uncertain economic situation. This has involved transforming the way we interact with our community of e-residents, for example by offering more online events and webinars in lieu of physical meet-ups and helping raise the profile of e-resident businesses on our website, blog, and social media. COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for us to accelerate longer term projects and strategies to open up access to e-Residency to more people around the world, e.g. by expanding pickup locations and looking at how to make the pickup process more seamless.

In our covid impact survey, we learned that many e-resident entrepreneurs are also adapting their businesses, including by pivoting to new revenue streams, going virtual, finding new clients and markets, or helping those in need. The survey respondents confirmed that e-Residency has made it easier to undertake these activities during the crisis as it is ready made for running a borderless business remotely, supporting a lean and agile company setup, and focusing on creating value.

COVID-19 has also revealed that our community is full of good samaritans.  Every day, we hear inspiring stories about those using their skills for good, like Sri Lankan e-resident Alagan Mahalingam and his team at Expert Republic offering an all-in-one video platform for professionals to offer online consultations and Vicky Brock tackling the increase in online scams and misinformation created by the crisis through her company Vistalworks. Plus, we set up a community page for e-residents to volunteer their time and expertise for others doing it tough and were blown away with the response and the generosity of what was on offer.

How to apply?

It’s simple and quick to become an e-resident and join our 70,000-strong community. The first step is to apply online and pay the state fee. Your application will be checked by Estonia’s Police and Border Guard, which normally takes around 30 days. If approved, they will email you and let you know when your digital ID card and e-Residency kit is ready for pickup. Once you have your digital ID, you can establish your business and start taking advantage of all that Estonia’s e-services offer. Find out more and subscribe to our newsletter at the e-Residency website.


The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic on global value chains and its impact on African businesses is already evident. As factories close their doors and border closures and travel restrictions interrupt supply chains, the workers – the most vulnerable and lowest paid people in the fashion supply chain – have been left to feel the worst effects.

Building more resilient value chains through innovative business models that will keep garments in use longer, use renewable materials and recycle old clothes into new products, was the focus of discussions during the second webinar event organized Thursday 3 September, by the African Development Bank’s Fashionomics Africa(link is external) initiative in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme. Eighty-eight attendees joined the event.

The panel was composed of industry experts from Parsons School of Design in New-York, the UK-based charity – Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the creative minds behind sustainable African fashion brands, Orange Culture, Mariama Fashion Production and Qaaldesigns.

“My dream is to develop a healthy fashion industry in Africa. We need to be able to rely and build ourselves from our own system. At the end of the day, we have so much that needs to be done and we can’t do it alone,” Orange Culture Adebayo Oke-Lawal, said.

“Covid-19 forced our world to rethink our system. We can absolutely do this in an excellent way. It’s a question of interconnection and understanding. My waste could be someone else’s resources. What is needed is collaboration and breaking down the typical silos fashionpreneurs face in the industry,” said Brendan McCarthy of the Parsons School of Design.

The goal of the Bank’s Fashionomics Africa platform is to enable African entrepreneurs operating in the Textile, Apparel and Accessories industry to create and grow their businesses, with a focus on women and youth. Through the Fashionomics Africa Digital Marketplace and Mobile App, the Bank is also analyzing the impact of the textile sector on climate change and environment to deploy climate-friendly solutions in Africa.

McCarthy, who said digital tools have become a phenomenon and have revolutionized the way the fashion industry works, noted that Parsons School of Design is working closely with the Bank to leverage digital tools to support the African textile and fashion industry.

“African fashion entrepreneurs see in the pandemic and the acceleration of digital tools, an opportunity to reconceptualize and better educate designers, but also consumers,” said Bintou Sadio Diallo, who spoke on behalf of the African Development Bank.

The Fashionomics Africa initiative intends to contribute to the African Textile, Apparel & Accessories industry by increasing the number of entrepreneurs accessing markets through e-commerce capabilities, boosting their access to finance, technical and business skills and forging strategic partnerships with key contributors.

The Fashionomics Africa webinar series is available for fashion entrepreneurs, digital enthusiasts and creative minds on the platform.

Source : AfDB News


The COVID-19 pandemic is severely pressuring a long-building rise in worldwide innovation, likely hindering some innovative activities while catalyzing ingenuity elsewhere, notably in the health sector, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020.

The GII 2020’s theme asks Who Will Finance Innovation? A key question is how the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will impact start-ups, venture capital, and other traditional sources of innovation financing. Many governments are setting up emergency relief packages to cushion the impact of the lockdown and face the looming recession. But the GII 2020 advises that further rounds of support must prioritize and then broaden support for innovation, particularly for smaller enterprises and start-ups that are facing hurdles in accessing rescue packages.

“The rapid, worldwide spread of the coronavirus requires fresh thinking to ensure a shared victory over this quintessential global challenge,” says WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “Even as we all grapple with the immediate human and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments need to ensure that rescue packages are future oriented and support the individuals, research institutes, companies and others with innovative and collaborative new ideas for the post-COVID era. Innovations equal solutions.”

In its associated annual ranking of the world’s economies on innovation capacity and output, the GII shows year-on-year stability at the top, but a gradual eastward shift in the locus of innovation as a group of Asian economies – notably China, India, the Philippines and Viet Nam – have advanced considerably in the innovation ranking over the years.

Switzerland, Sweden, U.S., U.K and Netherlands lead the innovation ranking, with a second Asian economy – the Republic of Korea – joining the top 10 for the first time (Singapore is number 8). The top 10 is dominated by high-income countries.

Global rankings

All 2020 rankings

  1. Switzerland (Number 1 in 2019)
  2. Sweden (2)
  3. United States of America (3)
  4. United Kingdom (5)
  5. Netherlands (4)
  6. Denmark (7)
  7. Finland (6)
  8. Singapore (8)
  9. Germany (9)
  10. Republic of Korea (11)
  11. Hong Kong (China) (13)
  12. France (16)
  13. Israel (10)
  14. China (14)
  15. Ireland (12)
  16. Japan (15)
  17. Canada (17)
  18. Luxembourg (18)
  19. Austria (21)
  20. Norway (19)

The GII 2020 in Motion

Video: This short video highlights the key takeaways from the GII 2020.

A shifting innovation landscape

The geography of innovation continues to shift, the GII 2020 shows. Over the years, India, China, the Philippines, and Viet Nam are the economies with the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over time. All four are now in the top 50.

The top-performing economies in the GII are still almost exclusively from the high-income group, with China (14th) remaining the only middle-income economy in the GII top 30. Malaysia (33rd) follows. India (48th) and the Philippines (50th) make it to the top 50 for the first time. The Philippines achieves its best rank ever—in 2014, it ranked 100th. Heading the lower middle-income group, Viet Nam ranks 42nd for the second consecutive year— from 71st in 2014. Indonesia (85th) joins the top 10 of this group. Tanzania tops the low-income group (88th).

“As shown by China, India and Viet Nam, the persistent pursuit of innovation pays off over time,” says Former Dean and Professor of Management at Cornell University Soumitra Dutta. “The GII has been used by governments of those countries and others around the world to improve their innovation performance.”

New findings for the GII 2020

  • The COVID-19 crisis hit the innovation landscape at a time when innovation was flourishing. In 2018, research and development (R&D) spending grew by 5.2%, i.e., significantly faster than global gross domestic product (GDP) growth, after rebounding strongly from the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Venture capital (VC) and the use of intellectual property (IP) were at an all-time high.
  • In the context of the GII 2020 theme Who Will Finance Innovation?, one of the GII findings is that the money to fund innovative ventures is drying up. VC deals are in sharp decline across North America, Asia, and Europe. The impact of this shortage in innovation finance will be uneven, with the negative effects felt more heavily by early-stage VCs, by R&D-intensive start-ups, and in countries that are not typically VC hotspots.
Cyclical Research and Development Investments, 2001-2020
  • While the impacts of the pandemic on the science and innovation systems will take time to unfold, there are positive signs of increased international collaboration in science. At the same time, there are concerns of major research projects being disrupted and international closure in the pursuit of innovation.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has already catalyzed innovation in many new and traditional sectors, such as health, education, tourism and retail.

“There are now genuine risks to international openness and collaboration on innovation. Faced with unprecedented challenges, whether sanitary, environmental, economic or social, the world needs to combine efforts and resources to ensure the continuous financing of innovation,” says INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices Bruno Lanvin.

GII 2020 regional innovation leaders

Region / rank Country GII 2020 global rank
Northern America
1 United States of America 3
2 Canada 17
Sub-Saharan Africa
1 South Africa* 60
2 Kenya 86
3 United Republic of Tanzania 88
Latin America and the Caribbean
1 Chile 54
2 Mexico 55
3 Costa Rica 56
Central and Southern Asia
1 India 48
2 Iran, Islamic Republic of 67
3 Kazakhstan 77
Northern Africa and Western Asia
1 Israel 13
2 Cyprus 29
3 United Arab Emirates 34
South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania
1 Singapore 8
2 Republic of Korea 10
3 Hong Kong, China 11
1 Switzerland 1
2 Sweden 2
3 United Kingdom 4
*Mauritius ranks 52nd this year. However, the 2020 rank for Mauritius has wide significant data variability as compared to last year. A mix of new data availability, data revisions at the source and performance effects explain Mauritius’ rank movements.

Northern America

The two economies in Northern America, the U.S. and Canada, rank in the top 20 in this year’s GII.
The U.S. maintains its 3rd position this year, thanks to its strong performance across all GII areas. It is the first economy worldwide in the GII indicators that capure the quality of innovation, with its excellent universities and high-quality scientific publications. The U.S. hosts the largest number (25) of top science and technology clusters in the world, led by the San Jose-San Francisco cluster.


Sixteen of the GII leaders in the top 25 are European countries, with seven of them ranking in the top 10.
Switzerland remains the world’s leader in innovation for the 10th consecutive year. A consistent producer of high-quality innovation outcomes, it improves in patents and venture capital deals.
A solid human capital and research system, coupled with a sophisticated market with innovative firms, put Sweden in the second spot for the second consecutive year.

Due to a combination of performance improvements and model changes, France is among the top 20 economies that saw the most impressive rank increase this year, taking the 12th position, its best GII rank since 2009. It ranks 5th in the new indicator global brand value and is in the top 10 in R&D-intensive global companies, quality of scientific publications, and research talent in business enterprises. France hosts five of the world top 100 science and technology clusters, with Paris ranking 10th this year.

South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania

The two most innovative economies in this region – Singapore (8) and the Republic of Korea (10) – rank in the top 10. China retains its 14th position, after its rapid rise in recent years.

China has established itself as an innovation leader, with high ranks in important metrics including patents, utility models, trademarks, industrial designs, and creative goods exports. It boasts 17 of the top science and technology clusters worldwide – with Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou and Beijing in the 2nd and 4th spots respectively.

The Republic of Korea moves into the top 10 group of the GII for the first time. It improves its ranks in various indicators, including environmental performance, patent families, quality of scientific publications, and high-technology manufactures, while retaining top 3 positions in R&D expenditures, researchers, and PCT patents. Three of its clusters make it to the top 100, with Seoul ranking 3rd worldwide.

In the region, Malaysia (33) and the Philippines (50) move up the ranking thanks to its first-class tertiary education system, sophisticated capital market, and a vibrant private sector. Malaysia excels in high-technology exports and creative goods exports. The Philippines enters the top 50 this year, with top 10 ranks in utility models, productivity growth, high-technology exports and imports, and ICT services exports.

Central and Southern Asia

India (48) retains the highest rank in the region, followed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (67).
Moving up four positions since last year, India becomes the third most innovative lower middle-income economy in the world, thanks to newly available indicators and improvements in various areas of the GII. It ranks in the top 15 in indicators such as ICT services exports, government online services, graduates in science and engineering, and R&D-intensive global companies. Thanks to universities such as the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, and its top scientific publications, India is the lower middle-income economy with the highest innovation quality.

This year Uzbekistan (93) enters the GII rankings and ranks 4th in its region, assisted by better data coverage. It ranks in the top 10 worldwide in three indicators: graduates in science and engineering, ease of starting a business, and capital investment.

Northern Africa and Western Asia

Israel (13), Cyprus (29), and the United Arab Emirates (34) are the top three economies in this region.
Israel is the world leader in several key indicators such as researchers, R&D expenditures, and university-industry research collaboration. Thanks to these investments, Israel remains a top innovation player, especially in ICT services exports.

Saudi Arabia (66) and Jordan (81) are among the economies that saw a significant improvement in their ranking this year, due to a combination of performance improvements and model changes. Saudi Arabia takes the the 3rd place in ease of protecting minority investors and ranks 13th in the state of cluster development. Jordan improves in variables related to the quality of its credit market, and in particular in ease of getting credit, domestic credit to private sector, and venture capital deals.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Chile (54) ranks first in the region, followed by Mexico (55) and Costa Rica (56).
BrazilMexico, and Argentina host global R&D companies and are among the top 10 middle-income economies in the quality of innovation. ChileUruguay, and Brazil produce high levels of scientific and technical articles, with Brazil making an impact also in patents.

The region performs well in the new indicator global brands value: MexicoBrazilColombia, and Argentina are all outperformers in this indicator, having many more valuable brands than their income levels would predict.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritius (52), South Africa (60), Kenya (86) and the United Republic of Tanzania (88) are leading this region.
With high-quality institutions and a dynamic market, Mauritius is the 9th most innovative upper middle-income economy in the world. However, the 2020 rank for Mauritius has wide significant data variability as compared to last year. A mix of new data availability, data revisions at the source and performance effects explain Mauritius’ rank movements.

A sophisticated internal market is also the strongest area of South Africa, ranking first in market capitalization and ninth in domestic credit to the private sector. Kenya is among the economies holding the record of being innovation achievers for ten consecutive years, thanks to top 5 rankings in indicators such as ease of getting credit and R&D expenditures financed by abroad.

Tanzania benefits from a relatively well interlinked innovation system and good international connectivity and ranks in the top 25 in cost of redundancy dismissal and gross capital investment.

Rwanda (91) significantly improves its rankings this year, thanks partly by improved data coverage. It ranks in the top 15 in ease of getting credit, microfinance loans, and productivity growth.

About the Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index 2020 (GII), in its 13th edition this year, is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations).

Published annually since 2007, the GII is now a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world. Policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders use the GII to evaluate progress on a continual basis.  The study benefits from the experience of its Knowledge Partners: Confederation of Indian Industry, Dassault Systèmes – The 3DEXPERIENCE Company, and the National Confederation of Industry (CNI)—Brazil, as well as of an Advisory Board of international experts.

The core of the GII Report consists of a ranking of world economies’ innovation capabilities and results. Recognizing the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, and the need for a broad  vision of innovation applicable to developed and emerging economies, the GII includes indicators that go beyond the traditional measures of innovation, such as the level of research and development.

To support the global innovation debate, to guide polices and to highlight good practices, metrics are required to assess innovation and related policy performance. The GII creates an environment in which innovation factors are under continual evaluation, including the following features:

  • 131 country/economy profiles, including data, ranks, and strengths and weaknesses
  • 80 data tables for indicators from over 30 international public and private sources, of which 58 are hard data, 18 composite indicators, and 4 survey questions
  • A transparent and replicable computation methodology including 90% confidence intervals for each index ranking (GII, output and input sub-indices) and an analysis of factors affecting year-on-year changes in rankings

The GII 2020 is calculated as the average of two sub-indices. The Innovation Input Sub-Index gauges elements of the national economy which embody innovative activities grouped in five pillars: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. The Innovation Output Sub-Index captures actual evidence of innovation results, divided in two pillars: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.

The index is submitted to an independent statistical audit by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.


Urgent digital transformation is needed to create safe and secure cross border ecommerce customs clearance in the world’s poorest countries

Over the last few months, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions around the world have had a dramatic impact on cross border ecommerce, including a reduction in the volumes of international parcels postal operators are managing.

Ecommerce success globally had meant a flourishing of packages sent across borders, but coronavirus has caused a decline due to disruptions in transport capacity, the closure of borders and the impact the pandemic has had on consumer trust. Despite this, it is likely that global parcel supply chain infrastructure will be restored quickly by postal operators, transport companies and customs administrations.

This recovery and the return to higher and higher levels of mailings will require urgent digital transformation, especially considering an upcoming deadline for electronic communications on items being sent globally by post. And, action is needed to ensure some countries aren’t left behind.

The regulatory landscape is changing rapidly

The COVID-19 pandemic is only one of the elements currently impacting the growth of cross border ecommerce. This year and 2021 will see huge changes in the regulatory landscape for the international exchange of low-value parcels and packets through the global postal network, supported mainly by designated postal operators of Universal Postal Union (UPU) member countries. UPU members work to facilitate communications and social and economic inclusion through the provision of a universal service.

Electronic advising ahead of the sending of postal items will be critical in meeting legal requirements taking effect in 2020/21, such as those established by the United States of America (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act), China, the Russian Federation and the European Union (Union Customs Code, Import Control System 2). Upcoming security requirements include sending pre-loading advance cargo information (PLACI) before an item leaves the country of origin, confirming the correct export processing to destination customs and transport airlines, and possibly sending security alerts back to the country of origin.

Bringing posts and customs together

The UPU’s Postal Technology Centre created the Customs Declaration System (CDS) that is in use by over 100 member countries of the UPU. The CDS system helps streamline the postal customs clearance process by enabling postal operators and customs administrators to exchange electronic advance data (EAD), perform data-driven risk analysis to support package selection and screening, and expedite the calculation of required duties and taxes.

On the customs front, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed ASYCUDA World, an automated customs management system currently used by 101 countries. The new data standard improves data quality and simplifies communications across the supply chain, thus facilitating trade growth, improving cargo security, modernising customs operations and fostering participation in global commerce through the submission of EAD for air cargo shipments. It also facilitates customs risk assessments for air cargo shipments and improves compliance with security regula­tions.

Link with the Trade Facilitation Agreement

The World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) outlines member countries’ obliga­tions in terms of reducing trade frictions and red tape, and helps to improve the access of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to global trade.

This year and 2021 will see huge changes in the regulatory landscape for the international exchange of low-value parcels and packets through the global postal network.

The implementation of many of those obligations, such as pre-arrival processing and advance ruling, can be facilitated by existing UPU regulations and solutions. The UPU actively supports and accelerates the implementation of the TFA by postal operators, customs and other trade agencies through its information technology solutions like the abovementioned CDS or the International Postal System (IPS) used by postal operators to dispatch and process international mail items.

Many of these obligations are related to collaborative activities between customs and postal operators such as the single window (TFA article 10.4), pre-arrival processing (TFA article 7.1), advance rulings (TFA article 3) and acceptance of copies (TFA article 10.2). Cooperation between customs and postal operators can help to reduce trade frictions.

Helping least developed countries comply

With the growth of ecommerce and the resulting “parcelisation of trade”, a tsunami of packages is being sent across borders, and postal and customs administrations need to develop new methods to facilitate trade, especially for MSMEs.

To do this, the UPU, in cooperation with UNCTAD, launched an effort this year in 22 least developed countries (LDCs) to facilitate the clearance of postal packages through the exchange of pre-arrival/pre-departure information between postal operators and customs administrations, enabling the use of data to enhance postal and customs operations for more efficient postal operations and more effective customs clearance.

The UPU, in cooperation with UNCTAD, launched an effort this year in 22 least developed countries (LDCs) to facilitate the clearance of postal packages through the exchange of pre-arrival/pre-departure information between postal operators and customs administrations.

The overall objective is to increase border efficiency and reduce red tape and friction in the cross-border shipment of postal items, often burdened by lengthy paper-driven processes and sluggish physical inspections performed without the support of data analysis risk engines. This builds on previous successful UNCTAD and UPU projects, now with the aim to rep­licate that success in LDCs by January 2021. The work will seek to reduce enduring traditional challenges such as illicit trade, illicit financial flows, intellectual property right infringement, counterfeiting, and piracy, to name a few.

The UPU and UNCTAD have identified the 22 LDCs in which the national interfaces between UPU’s CDS and UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA can be established quickly to address the urgent need for posts and customs to exchange EAD (see Table 1). The goal is to:

·       Enable an efficient customs clearance process and the timely delivery of postal items;

·       Improve visibility, timelines and quality of service for items in the postal network;

·       Ensure the effective and accurate collection of leviable duties and taxes, and the efficient implementa­tion of de minimis thresholds.

UNCTAD’s e-trade readiness assessments are supporting this work with information about where ASYCUDA is operational and what challenges and opportunities exist in each country’s ecommerce context, while the UPU’s operational readiness for ecommerce project identifies which LDCs need to install CDS and which ones only need to interface with ASYCUDA. Proof of concept pilots are planned for Vanuatu, and Cambodia was recently added to the list.

Table 1: LDCs that need CDS and/or ASYCUDA

The completion of this project will improve trade facilitation and inclusion to and from these countries, by enabling individuals and small businesses to exchange goods internationally through the global postal supply chain, while introducing efficient customs clearance processes and supporting the timely delivery of postal items.

A new special report by the UN regional commission suggests a basic basket of Information and Communications Technologies for all households, at an annual cost of less than 1% of GDP.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) urged today for ensuring and universalizing connectivity and the affordability of digital technologies to address the many impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the region. To this end, it proposed five lines of action that include building an inclusive digital society, driving a productive transformation, fostering digital trust and security, strengthening regional digital cooperation, and moving towards a new governance model to ensure a “digital welfare state” that would promote equality, protect the population’s economic, social and labor rights, guarantee the secure use of data, and fuel progressive structural change.

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, unveiled during a press conference the institution’s Special Report COVID-19 No. 7, entitled Universalizing access to digital technologies to address the consequences of COVID-19, which proposes to the region’s countries ensuring a basic basket of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) made up of a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet and a connection plan for households that are not connected, at an annual cost of less than 1% of GDP.

The report presented today highlights the importance that digital technologies have had for the functioning of the economy and society during the crisis prompted by the coronavirus disease pandemic. Progress that was expected to take years to materialize has been made in a matter of months. However, access gaps affect the right to health, education and work, and can also widen structural gaps and increase socioeconomic inequalities.

“The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have taken measures to encourage the use of technological solutions and to ensure the continuity of telecommunications services. However, the scope of these actions is limited by gaps in access to and use of these technologies and by connection speeds,” Alicia Bárcena said upon presenting the report.

According to the document, in 2019, 66.7% of the region’s inhabitants had an Internet connection. The remaining third had limited or no access to digital technologies due to their economic and social status, particularly their age and location. In 12 countries of the region, the percentage of households in the highest income quintile (quintile V) that have an Internet connection is 81% on average, while the figures for households in the first and second quintiles are 38% and 53%, respectively.

The differences in connectivity between urban and rural areas are significant. In the region, 67% of urban households are connected to the Internet, while in rural areas only 23% are. In terms of age groups, young people and older adults have less connectivity: 42% of those under 25 years of age and 54% of people older than 66 are not connected to the Internet.

The report adds that the low degree of affordability reinforces the exclusion of lower-income households. The cost of mobile and fixed broadband services for the population in the first income quintile accounts for 14% and 12% of their income, respectively. This is around 6 times the reference threshold of 2% of income recommended by the United Nations Broadband Commission.

The study reveals that mobility data during the first months of lockdown show a world that was paralyzed physically, but not virtually. Website traffic and the use of applications for teleworking, online education or distance learning, and online shopping reveal a significant increase in the use of digital solutions. Between the first and second quarters of 2020, the use of teleworking solutions surged by 324% while distance education rose more than 60%.

However, the use of distance learning solutions is only possible for those with an Internet connection and devices that enable access, and in Latin America 46% of children between 5 and 12 years of age live in households that have no connectivity. Households’ access to digital devices is also unequal in the region: while between 70% and 80% of students from the highest socioeconomic levels have laptops in their homes, only between 10% and 20% of students in the lowest income quintiles have these devices.

“The difference between the highest and lowest economic strata affects the right to education and deepens socioeconomic inequalities. To ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote learning opportunities throughout the education cycle, not only must connectivity and digital infrastructure be improved, but also the digital skills of teachers and professors, and educational content must be adapted to the digital environment,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary emphasized.

With regard to the percentage of jobs that can be shifted over to teleworking, the report notes that this is positively linked to the level of per capita GDP and to lower degrees of labor informality. In Europe and the United States, nearly 40% of workers can work from home, whereas in the case of Latin America, ECLAC estimates that around 21.3% of employed persons could engage in teleworking.

The document highlights that the Internet is mitigating the impact of the crisis on companies. It states that between March and April 2020, the number of business websites jumped by 800% in Colombia and Mexico and around 360% in Brazil and Chile. In June 2020, the online presence of retail companies surged by 431% compared with June 2019.

Finally, the report indicates that the post-pandemic period will be characterized by new demand patterns based on online channels that will require efforts by countries and the private sector to deliver better services. Meanwhile, new supply patterns will be based on flexibility, local proximity and response capacity.

“Productivity and structural change will remain central to development. The region must move towards more diversified, homogeneous and integrated productive systems that incorporate technology at all stages in order to increase productivity, competitiveness and productive inclusion, which will lead to higher employment levels and wages,” Alicia Bárcena concluded.


The macroeconomic context for developing country trade in the time of COVID-19

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in a deeply interconnected global economy, the socio-economic and public health impacts of the crisis are becoming more apparent. These impacts are revealing the disproportionate effect of the crisis on the least developed countries (LDCs), with consensus being a likely economic downturn that will be more severe for LDCs.

Challenges such as disruptions to supply chains beleaguered LDCs pre-COVID, and, in response, governments across the world were creating policy environments favourable to stimulating competitiveness and value addition. The supply challenges for LDCs have now magnified, and efforts will need to continue to stimulate the economies that are most in danger.

Mitigating the harmful effects of the current pandemic and accelerating a post-crisis recovery may well depend on how well LDC governments can overcome transaction and confidence frictions in digital commerce. Lockdowns, social distancing measures and the need for virtual engagements mean such government actions are timely.

The challenge

Ongoing assessments of the COVID impact on trade across the LDCs show that the failure of market-oriented, productive-sector interventions to boost sales and product offerings is a major economic risk. Analysis conducted by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) (assessing dedicated COVID-19 risk management action sheets across the LDCs), shows that this is a cross-cutting global risk that could broadly impact export earnings and the human development indicators in these countries.

Blockchain is well suited for targeted LDC interventions in trade finance, customs clearance, transportation and logistics, trade in goods and services as well as government procurement.

Addressing these issues with blockchain technology could help mitigate a number of risks of an operational nature such as the scarcity or inflation of resources, which could result in higher selling prices for essential goods and services. As a major tool to enhance efficiency and paperless trade, deploying blockchain in the current environment could not be timelier.

The opportunity

One can think of blockchain as a decentralised, distributed record or “ledger” of transactions. Every transaction is encrypted and stored permanently. Unlike traditional databases, which are administered by a central entity, blockchain relies on a peer-to-peer network that no single party can control. Blockchain promotes transparency through time-stamped transactions that cannot be easily altered, allowing easy traceability of products and transactions.

Blockchain is well suited for targeted LDC interventions in trade finance, customs clearance, transportation and logistics, trade in goods and services as well as government procurement.

Blockchain without digitalisation?

The research on the digital divide between LDCs and other countries is extensive. LDCs need further investment to help reach the same levels of digital competitiveness as other countries. And, blockchain depends on robust uptake of economic digitalisation and telecommunications access. In light of the more-ready availability of smartphones, there is a case to be made that blockchain technology could leapfrog the gains already made in telecommunications infrastructure. Failing to adequately make this transition risks leaving LDCs even further behind.
Apart from infrastructure concerns, important problems persist in the uptake of internet-based innovation. Many consumers have privacy concerns and are wary of information security in web-based transactions. The extant capabilities of blockchain can inform the implementation of paperless processes to ensure the greatest transparency and efficiency gains. The power and diversity of application of blockchain technology should be an additional push toward vigorous digitalization.

Increasing value addition

It is important to note that many governments have made huge progress with digitalisation. Senegal has facilitated the transition and delivery of essential supplies by fast-tracking ecommerce policies and reforms. The country’s Trade Ministry has created an ecommerce platform that provides easy access to websites of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that sell essential goods. The platform helps businesses reach consumers in major urban centres, thereby ensuring people can purchase what they need to ride out the crisis.

Senegal is a model for timely innovation that could be a model for others. The country followed up on the recommendations of its e-trade readiness assessment and the roadmap set out in its national ecommerce development strategy, which was supported by EIF and launched in December 2019. Currently, its nimbleness and openness to innovation means many of its ecommerce gains can be further improved with blockchain. Enhancing the security and efficiency of transactions through distributed ledger technology could lead to an even larger uptake by merchants and ‘e-wary’ purchasers.

<h3Trade in goods and services

For trade in goods and services, blockchain can further reduce transaction frictions. Distributed ledger technology promotes cybersecurity, greater transparency, real-time transactions, easy auditability of transactions and scalability.

In light of the more-ready availability of smartphones, there is a case to be made that blockchain technology could leapfrog the gains already made in telecommunications infrastructure. Failing to adequately make this transition risks leaving LDCs even further behind.

In Uganda’s burgeoning tourist industry, the sale of handicrafts, currently supported by an EIF project, is contracting because of travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines. With an eye towards post-COVID recovery, handicrafts producers should be encouraged to also have their offerings on dedicated or pre-existing ecommerce platforms. This shift could be further enhanced through the employment of distributed ledger technology. Considering that physical distancing measures might go on for a while, efficient and secure tracking mechanisms for purchases would provide artisans the necessary confidence to make this transition and keep their businesses going. Sceptical purchasers will equally be encouraged.

International trade generally involves paper-intensive and error-prone processes, which blockchain could help streamline. Blockchain offers customers safer and quicker solutions, which could help to increase customer numbers and boost ecommerce sales.

Trade facilitation

Inefficient border procedures are time consuming and costly, becoming a key area of trade policy focus. Cross-border trade is also heavily impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Existing inefficiencies have in many LDCs now been compounded by complete border closures.

Blockchain presents an opportunity to further enhance efforts at trade digitalisation. One example is automating paperless trade measures and border procedures that involve exchange of documents and data between actors. The highly secure, decentralised and distributed nature of blockchain enhances the exchange of information and opens new opportunities for more effective cooperation.

Vanuatu’s Electronic Single Window System (ESWS) could explore measures such as the use of smart contracts, which enforce export approval workflow among parties that must approve exports and capture documents and goods while sharing them in real time on a ledger visible to all authorised participants. A proof of concept developed by IBM to ship flowers from Mombasa, Kenya, to Royal Flora in the Netherlands illustrates the advantages that the technology can bring. A prior requirement of signatures from three different agencies and six documents was curtailed to a smart contract that enforces an export approval workflow among the three agencies that must approve the export. As each agency gives its consent, the status of export is updated in real time, and for all to see.

Reason for excitement

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each country differently. However, a common element to most countries’ responses is emphasis on timely action and increased openness to innovation.

Kiribati’s transition to online processing of documents for incoming vessels and flights and Senegal’s progress in ecommerce are cases in point. They can make even greater efficiency, confidence and transaction gains with blockchain. The ease, security and transparency that blockchain provides helps promote consumer confidence in the eventual transition to ecommerce activity. In areas that are most critical right now for mitigating economic damage and accelerating recovery, blockchain technology in self-executing contracts can provide the stability, stimulus and predictability needed in economically uncertain times.


TC survey shows how COVID-19 is forcing enterprises run by young people in developing countries to think on their feet

The COVID-19 pandemic has left firms owned by young people in developing countries looking for new ways to survive and grow, a new survey by ITC reveals.

Answering the question ‘How has COVID-19 affected your business?’ survey respondents said they had seen a drop in sales − more than any other single consequence at 60% of responses.

The second most-cited effect was ‘temporary shutdowns’ for over 50% of respondents, while the and third-most cited effect was ‘employee absences’ (just under 50%).

‘Running a business during COVID is very challenging in general,’ Masresha Beniam, the founder of Ethiopian company OmniTech, which works in schools to increase technology awareness.

‘But the most challenging part was ensuring that staff were getting paid monthly, even when we were not able to work due to school closures,’ she said.

ITC’s Youth and Trade Programme quizzed small business owners aged 35 or younger to understand how they are responding to the economic and social shockwaves of the global coronavirus pandemic, which began in early 2020.

The three most-represented sectors in the sample were agriculture, informational technology and agri-processing. Retail and wholesale businesses, and travel and transport companies, were also represented.

Temporarily reducing employment for all or some employees was the most-cited coping strategy identified by the survey’s respondents. Pivoting to remote working, increasing communications and marketing activity and developing online sales channels were the next three strategies identified.

‘The strategy we adopted in response was going online,’ Ms. Beniam said. ‘We are now in the process of delivering our classes online.’

André Serge Mousseni, CEO and founder of Etablissement PSM, which produces and markets pepper from Ndikiniméki in Cameroon, said that transport restrictions and quarantine measures made it hard to get the fertilizer he needed for his crops. Other COVID-19 measures also hit Mr. Mousseni’s business.

‘Social distancing requirements and absenteeism are increasing costs and reducing production capacity,’ he said. ‘Our workers are assigned tasks in smaller groups, and some shift work has been introduced.’

Mr. Mousseni said that these restrictions were imposed even as demand for his pepper was rising.

Young business owners in the survey said that the most helpful support they have received during the pandemic was access to finance (26%), access to training (20%), market information (18%) and information about government support programmes (12%).

Answering to the question ‘Which organizations have been of most help during the current situation?’, nearly 40% of respondents answered ‘none’ − more than any other answer. Just under 30% said that business incubators/accelerators had been of most help.

Around two-thirds of respondents did not envisage closing their businesses as a result of pandemic effects. Nevertheless, the remaining third of business owners in the survey said there remained a risk that their business would close in the short term due to the crisis.

The survey was conducted from April to June 2020 with 353 business owners, 30% of whom were women, and with most business owners employing between one and 19 people.

Source : ITC News


Addis Ababa, 24 August 2020 (ECA) – The Economic Commission for Africa, jointly with International Economics Consulting Ltd, released the report of the second comprehensive survey on the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact across Africa. The online survey was conducted from 16 June to 20 July to provide insights into the effects of the pandemic on economic activity for businesses across Africa, identifying the challenges they face as well as their responses.

The results of the survey show that the top three challenges faced by companies are: a) reduced opportunities to meet new customers; b) drop in demand, and; c) lack of cash flow. Companies have faced serious disruptions in both supply and market due to COVID-19, with unfair pricing seen as a major concern. Feedback from companies about government assistance is mixed with nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicating from moderate to no satisfaction. As a consequence, 50% of the respondents approached financial institutions from which 25% got positive responses; among the latter, 42% were not satisfied with the service due to high interest rates, delays and/or collateral requirements.

When it comes to their performance, companies are currently working at about half their capacity. Company revenues are expected to drop by about 18% in 2020 (as compared to 2019) and lay-offs to increase by 20% in the next three months. Still, the situation could have been worse if a significant share of employees (27%) had not been able to work remotely. It is worth noting that remote working options proved more challenging for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly those dealing with goods, whose performance has been relatively more negatively affected than larger-sized companies and more generally those involved in services. Moreover, women are more at risk of being laid-off than men, which is consistent with the fact that, from interviewed companies, women tend to be employed more in MSMEs in which their primary business is related to goods.

One of the main takeaways from this survey is the very positive fact that two-thirds of the surveyed companies indicated that they have identified new opportunities in response to the crisis. Mr. Simon Mevel, Economics Affairs Officer at the Regional Integration and Trade Division in ECA said: Very interesting to note that firms involved in goods and MSMEs are displaying the highest shares in terms of new opportunities identified following the crisis, which in turn is expected to be positive from a gender point of view as women are primarily engaged in MSMEs dealing with goods”.

Those opportunities attest to a clear shift towards new technologies, particularly the development of online platforms for e-commerce. While the current share of e-commerce revenues remains relatively small (16%) – essentially due to challenges around internet connectivity, payment gateways and logistics/transport/deliveries – nearly half (47%) of the companies are moving or planning to move towards innovative/digital solutions through collaborations and partnerships.


Collaboration at the regional level is a critical force for scaling up effective technologies and increasing innovation capacity in the fight against COVID-19, according to high-level officials and key stakeholders at the third session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Science, Technology and Innovation.

Convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the two-day Committee meeting highlighted how digital inclusion and resilient digital networks across the entire region have become the foundation for government measures to effectively stem the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Digital has taken on a compelling new meaning in the region – people, planet and prosperity are all increasingly dependent on access to digitally-driven technological innovations and seamless connectivity,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

She added, “As we are planning to chart our future in the post-COVID-19 world, we need to address the digital and technology divide with urgency. We cannot let this divide drive new forms of socio-economic inequalities.”

More than half of the region’s 4.1 billion people remain offline and in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island countries, less than 5 per cent of the population has access to high-speed and affordable Internet. Women and girls, regardless of location, level of income or age, have lower access than men.

“We need to accelerate the digital transformation that has happened before the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to make sure that quality telecommunications infrastructure is made available,” said H.E. Mr. Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister for Research and Technology and Chairman of the National Agency for Research and Innovation, Indonesia.

To leave no one behind, the Committee discussed a set of guidelines for inclusive technology and innovation policies for sustainable development, and committed to developing policies that promote inclusive technology and innovation to ensure that innovations are accessible, relevant and affordable for all.

“It is our choice to look at global challenges such as the Coronavirus pandemic as an international science and technology competition or as an opportunity for a generous collaboration to build a better world,” said H.E. Mr. Sorena Sattari, Vice President for Science and Technology, Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Committee also underscored the importance of harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to focus on developing innovations to address social and environmental challenges as well as provide economic opportunities. Social innovators and entrepreneurs have stepped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From providing educational technology and e-health services for the most vulnerable to developing community tracing initiatives, the work of social innovators and entrepreneurs is more critical than ever.

In this regard, the Committee  recognized the critical role that innovative business models – such as social enterprise, inclusive business and impact investing – play in accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, and recommended that the United Nations support member States to grow this new and emerging sector.

A regional launch of the 2020 United Nations E-Government Survey published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) was held on the sidelines of the Committee. The Survey finds that among the world’s least developed countries, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Cambodia have become leaders in digital government development, advancing from the middle to the high E-Government Development Index group in 2020. At the launch, ESCAP further highlighted the challenges and opportunities of digital government in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasized the use of ICT during all phases of disaster risk management.

“This e-government development ranking allows us to see the readiness and capabilities of the country in the use of ICT to provide citizens with public services,” said H.E. Mr. Ablaykhan Ospanov, Vice Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry, Kazakhstan. He further called on countries to actively cooperate on the development of a new Action Plan for implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway 2022-2026, which will help ensure that digital government services reach all.

In conjunction with the Committee, a high-level dialogue session also gathered eminent personalities such as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Maldives Minister of Communication, Science and Technology H.E. Mr. Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, Astronaut and Senior Advisor to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Dr. Mukai Chiaki, Google Asia-Pacific Vice President for Government Policy Ambassador (ret.) Ted Osius and Alibaba Senior Director Mr. Sami Farhad to share their insights on how the region can accelerate digital connectivity and leverage innovation as part of its post-pandemic recovery efforts. The session kicked off a six-part Regional Conversation Series on Building Back Better in commemoration of the United Nations’ 75th anniversary this year.


The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented changes to the way we lead our lives and our reliance on ICT connectivity has grown even faster than before. However, the region is also one of the most digitally divided, with less than 14 percent of the population connected to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet.

As shown in the figure below, while fixed-broadband is accessible to most of the population in two of the three income groups, fixed-broadband subscriptions remain unaffordable for more than half of the population for the Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries, Small island Developing States and Landlocked Developing countries, identified in the “low and lower-middle income” income group. A total of 44 per cent of households in developing countries of the region have Internet access at home, which means that those who relied on the Internet from work or school have lost their access during the lockdowns.



With live shows on pause due to the pandemic, creative industries in Kenya are tapping into new revenue streams on digital platforms and outlets to build resilience.

Award-winning Kenyan musician Tetu Shani has been trying to find new grooves in the time of COVID-19.

Mr. Shani who is known for his upbeat blend of indie rock, Afro-pop and folkloric rhythms, was hit hard when the coronavirus pandemic decimated his live performance income stream.

The COVID-19 crisis also had an impact on his creativity, his agent said.

“It’s very hard to be creative when experiencing such pressures on income. Frustration affects production and Tetu started to create music for himself rather than for an audience,” said Silalei Shani.

In April the rising star released a music video of his latest lockdown tune, “Always Feelin’ This Groove”.

Since then, he, like many other artists, musicians, actors, and performers have had to find new ways to supplement their income. But how?

Tetu Shani

[Tetu Shani performing live before the COVID-19 outbreak]

The Kenyan government released a $1 million stimulus package dedicated to local artists, including musicians. But this is not enough, some say, wanting the government to have a longer-term plan in place.

A recent survey conducted by the HEVA Fund, Africa’s first dedicated finance, business support and knowledge facility for creative industries, underscored the financial impact of COVID-19 on creative businesses in Kenya.

In the survey, 58% of the respondents estimated their income losses to be “severe” and an additional 26% “moderate to severe”.

This is a blow to Kenya’s emerging creative industries, which, according to the latest available data from 2013, exports creative goods to the value of at $40.9 million and imports $195 million worth of creative goods, the latest UNCTAD Creative Economy Outlook outlines.

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, the artists are flocking to both well-known and emerging platforms to eke out a living. And while digital solutions cannot replace the value and beauty of a live show, they are helping the artists survive.

This trend is giving fresh impetus to e-commerce channels and platforms for creatives. It has led the government to request UNCTAD to help address key e-commerce gaps limiting the uptake of digital solutions.

“COVID19 has seen many creatives turn to digital platforms and technologies to connect with audiences and consumers. They are also looking for ways to monetise the technology,” said UNCTAD’s creative economy programme head, Marisa Henderson.

“Given the important role of the digital creative services for creative industries, it’s crucial that countries ready themselves for the ‘new normal’ and adopt digital strategies in line with their development needs.”

An e-commerce policy solution

Kenya was among the top five African performers in the UNCTAD B2C e-commerce index 2019. The country’s 2019 Digital Economy Blueprint outlines the government’s commitment to using disruptive technology to help it leapfrog.

To turn the blueprint into action, the Communications Authority of Kenya requested UNCTAD to help it formulate a national e-commerce strategy. This will include an action plan with recommendations for targeted policy interventions.

“More needs to be done to allow home-grown digital platforms in Africa to stay profitable and for the digital economy to become inclusive and sustainable. Kenya has made significant progress in building a digital ecosystem,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director.

“The COVID-19 crisis has encouraged the creative industry to make full use of the potential offered by digital platforms to market and sell creative content online via e-commerce,” she added.

But the uptake of digital platforms has unveiled underlying challenges in the creative industry sector in Kenya, according to businesses surveyed by UNCTAD.

These include the collection of fees and royalties for artists, various copyright and intellectual property challenges, privacy and personal data protection rules, illegal downloads, piracy, and counterfeiting. Added to this is the limited scalability of locally developed digital products.

Artists’ lives deeply affected by the pandemic

Atemi Oyungu, a popular Kenyan singer and songwriter well known for her afro-soul productions, was stranded in the United States as global lockdowns came into force and prevented her return to Kenya.

“I’ve been living on my own resources and have not been able to generate an income without a keyboard,” she said.

Ms. Oyungu added: “I’ve also been missing collaboration with fellow musicians who’ve returned to their villages where internet connectivity is weak. We also face other constraints, like the time difference, so I haven’t been able to create and perform.”

She also highlighted the toll of COVID-19 on creativity. “It’s a tough period for live musicians who cannot benefit from real shows and interactions with fans to get inspired.”

Digital platforms useful for survival, but scale is key

For both Ms. Oyungu and Mr. Shani, a revamped presence on social media has been critical for keeping them afloat.

Mr. Shani embraced digital platforms to turn what would have been live performance income into digital income. He has been using livestreaming platform DundaLive.

DundaLive allows e-payments for streamed content and a tip line, using the popular M-Pesa mobile money solution and PayPal for followers outside Kenya.

Livestreaming has a merit, but it is not without challenges. “It’s difficult to get attention because of the oversaturation in the market, marked by a significant rise in live performers moving online,” Mr. Shani said. “Electricity and internet connectivity issues can also frustrate the streaming experience.”

Other platforms have also been helping Kenyan musicians.

Revenue streams generated by music aggregators, such as YouTube or Spotify, and in particular the Kenyan platform Mdundo, have helped mitigate pandemic-related losses, through the download of artists’ music tunes and ringtones for mobile phones.

Mdundo, which is expanding its presence in 15 African countries, featuring more than 60,000 African artists, reaches more than 5 million active users, 22% of whom are from Kenya.

“Music downloads have been rising steadily with a 26% uptick in 2020’s second quarter on the first quarter’s 33 million downloads,” said Wanjiku Koinange, Mdundo’s chief operating officer, who added that COVID-19 was also changing the way creative content is being produced.

Artists relying on digital platforms for income during the crisis have become more productive, she said. But profitability for both African producers and the platforms requires time and scale.

UNCTAD’s 2019 Digital Economy Report found that in many developing countries, digital entrepreneurs face various barriers to scaling their activities, especially as global digital platforms dominate most product categories.

“A national e-commerce strategy will help identify solutions that can help the Kenyan creative industries and those beyond, using e-commerce as a new tool for income generation,” Ms. Sirimanne said.


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