The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has made a compelling case for accelerating Africa’s industrialization in order to create jobs, reduce poverty and promote inclusive economic growth.
Citing data from the Bank’s 2018 African Economic Outlook launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on Wednesday, Adesina said infrastructure projects were among the most profitable investments any society can make as they “significantly contribute to, propel, and sustain a country’s economic growth. Infrastructure, when well managed, provides the financial resources to do everything else.”
Noting that economic diversification is key to resolving many of the continent’s difficulties, he urged African governments to encourage a shift toward labour-intensive industries, especially in rural areas where 70 percent of the continent’s population resides.
“Agriculture must be at the forefront of Africa’s industrialization,” he said, adding that integrated power and adequate transport infrastructure would facilitate economic integration, support agricultural value chain development and economies of scale which drive industrialization.
He reminded the audience of policy-makers and members of the diplomatic corps in Côte d’Ivoire that economic diversification via industrialization with tangible investment in human capital will enable the continent’s rapidly growing youth population to successfully transition to productive technology-based sectors.
Adesina also highlighted the relatively unknown win-win situation that Africa’s industrialization can generate within the developed world, citing data from the report, which notes that “increasing the share of manufacturing in GDP in Africa (and other Less Developing Countries) could boost investment in the G20 by about US $485 billion and household consumption by about US $1.4 trillion.”
The Bank President highlighted various innovative ways in which Africa countries can generate capital for infrastructure development and what the Bank is doing through its ambitious High 5 development agenda to address the issues raised in the report.
He announced that the Bank would organise the Africa Investment Forum on November 7-8, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilise funds for infrastructure development, to bridge an estimated funding gap of $130-$170 billion a year, up from previous estimates of US $100 billion per year.
New infrastructure financing gap estimates and innovative ways through which African countries can raise funds for infrastructure development are among the highlights of the 2018 edition of the report, which was launched at the Bank’s headquarters for the first time in the publication’s 15-year history.
The Africa Economic Outlook was first published in 2003 and launched mostly in various African capitals outside the Bank’s headquarters in May each year.
The African Economic Outlook bridges a critical knowledge gap on the diverse socio-economic realities of African economies through regular, rigorous, and comparative analysis. It provides short-to-medium term forecasts on the evolution of key macroeconomic indicators for all 54 regional member countries, as well as analysis on the state of socio-economic challenges and progress made in each country.
On 8 December 2017, prior to the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11), the Japanese Government made a pledge to provide approximately 300 million USD over the next three years to support the development of the information and communications technology (ICT) field, including e-commerce, in developing countries.
Japan hopes that this assistance will help developing countries benefit from e-commerce through building their ICT capacity and infrastructure. For the development of the digital economy, it is essential to improve infrastructure, both soft and hard, so as to create an environment which enables affordable Internet access for all and which facilitates the participation of businesses, particularly MSMEs, in digital trade. As an active participant in the discussions on e-commerce in the WTO, Japan hopes that this new initiative will encourage developing countries to actively engage in future discussions on e-commerce and the digital economy.
Inquiries related to this initiative should be made to your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan. (List of Overseas Establishments: https://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html)
Read the press release on Japan’s pledge here.
Find the Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce at MC11 here
The Global and the five Regional Reports on Trade Facilitation and Paperless Trade Implementation have been launched at the WTO 11th Ministerial Conference, in December 2017. The Reports are based on a survey jointly conducted by the United Nations Regional Commissions (UNRCs) in collaboration with UNCTAD, OECD, ITC, EEC and OCO. The results of the survey provide useful information to support the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as emerging global and regional initiatives on e-trade. The Global and Regional Reports help review the progress made in the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and e-trade related measures, and provide insightful information for policy makers to harness trade as a key means of advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The first joint survey was carried out in 2015.
- The Global Report
- UNECE Regional Report (ECE/TRADE/438)
- ECLAC Regional Report
- ESCWA Regional Report
- ESCAP Regional Report
The year 2018 represents a tipping point for the Internet and its governance. Processes that have been evolving are now starting to mature.
Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Head of the Geneva Internet Platform, has made
10 predictions for digital politics for 2018
Governance inertia has served Internet growth well for more than decade. However, inertia may not work well any more, since the current politics are more prone than before to favoring particular national and commercial interests. Digital space will continue to mirror our real space. The chances for Internet fragmentation and conflict will be higher than a few years ago. In 2018, Internet governance will reach a tipping point.
However, there are also some reasons for optimism, as the background text suggests. While the impetus for fragmentation is strong, for most actors – governments, businesses, and civil society (users) – the disintegration of the Internet would be very damaging. Any possible convergences should be nurtured by the constructive players in the digital politics arena. It is against this backdrop that the predictions reveal what we can expect in digital policy.
Read: 10 predictions for digital politics in 2018
1. GDPR: Data in the centre of digital politics
2. Cybersecurity geopolitics: The search for new governance mechanisms
3. Digital trade and the Internet economy
4. Courts: Active maker of digital rules
5. Artificial intelligence: Between philosophical considerations and practical applications
6. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies: Between boom and bust
7. Content policy: Fake news and violent extremism online
8. Net neutrality: Global impact of new US regulation
9. Encryption: More pressure on backdoor access
10. ICANN: Online identities, jurisdiction, and governance
Telecommunications companies (telcos) face enormous opportunities and challenges in a greatly disrupted industry. ITU – “It’s really crucial to develop cross-border policies that work. With the change happening so fast, maybe there’s a need for ITU or someone else to help foster the discussions.
The Winner of the 2017 World Export Development Forum’s Investment Challenge sets out how the company is aiming to make a change in Ghana
Walking away from a failed e-commerce startup, my business partner Francis Obirikorang and I decided to try building a solution for agriculture, primarily because it was gaining a lot of investor attention at the time. In December 2015 we packed our bags and made a trip to northern Ghana. Over a period of two weeks we lived among smallholders to understand what their pain points were. It was an awesome experience that left us both awestruck and disheartened.
One noticeable issue was that the majority of the food consumed in Ghana is produced by farmers in the regions we visited, yet we could not see any positive impact their occupations had on their lives. They lived in abject poverty and had no competitive markets in which to sell their commodities or were unable to transport their produce to the local, not-so-competitive, markets. This left them at the mercy of exploitative middlemen who purchased their products at ridiculously low prices.
We immediately knew we had to provide these farmers with large volume buyers. We approached a few big companies that were into food production and discovered they also had a huge problem sourcing large volumes of commodities locally and often times had no choice but resort to imports.
THE BIRTH OF AGROCENTA
The next couple of months were spent planning, brainstorming and building our solution to link the smallholders and volume buyers. By August 2016 we had completed work on the initial version of this solution. In September 2016 we opened AgroCenta, a platform that aims to improve the livelihoods of farmers through fair trade. The platform connects smallholders on one end to large clients on the other end.
It was a very new market for us that required a lot of learning and learn we did. We soon found that the logistics had to be on point to deliver optimum value to the buyer. AgroCenta therefore signed an agreement with the largest transport union in Ghana and registered all their truck drivers on our platform. We dedicated the first quarter of 2017 to on-boarding farmers and signing contracts with four very large buyers. In May 2017 we started purchasing commodities from our farmers.
Between May 2017 and November 2017 AgroCenta bought commodities worth $120,000 from 3,000 smallholder farmers at prevailing market prices or a little higher. As a result, farmers made four times more than they used to and payments are prompt: 30% up front, 70% in two weeks after purchase.
The journey has been full of constant learning on the job. One such lesson led us to introduce mobile money payments for commodities purchases. This was in response to complaints from farmers that banks and microfinance companies were unwilling to give them loans because they could not prove they had any means of carrying out financial transactions.
To help make the farmers credit-worthy, we decided to pay them using mobile money technology and not cash. Our platform now provides a financial trail for every farmer that serves as a bank statement of sorts. Partnering financial institutions can access this data to make informed decisions and then provide credit to our farmers. Many of our smallholders are now able to look better after their families and reinvest some money into their farms.
Our large-scale buyers have also saved a considerable amount of money that otherwise would have been spent on the import of commodities. They have experienced a 40% increase in production since they are able to track how long it’ll take for them to receive commodities from our farmers in real time.
We have currently been able to provide value for 3,000 of the 10,000 smallholders in AgroCenta’s network. We are working hard to also ensure purchases from the remaining 7,000 by March 2018.
Successfully completing our fundraising round by March 2018 will enable us to expand into two more regions in Ghana and bring our farmer base to 60,000 smallholders. We also plan on adding two additional clients to bring our total to six. We intend to stay focused on the Ghana market for the next two to three years while learning what works and perfecting the model until we move to a new market.
While it is impossible to get rid of the middlemen, who are deeply rooted in the agriculture value chain, our goal is to force them to eventually buy commodities at prevailing market prices or better. This is better for the farmer and better for society. Our main goal though is to help convert smallholders into commercial farmers, as this increase their incomes and enable them to reinvest more in their businesses. It is at that point we will know that we have succeeded as a company.
As the US moves a step closer to calling time on the rules protecting net neutrality, our Digital Advocacy Manager Renate Samson explains why this controversial decision may have consequences for consumers globally.
Last week saw US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issue the final text of the order to undo net neutrality rules established in 2015. The order puts an end to net neutrality laws in the USA which many believe will mean the end of the free and open internet for users in the US.
The controversial move has sparked consternation across the US (including from Consumers International’s US member Consumer Reports) and is likely to face several legal challenges.
But what impact could the FCC’s ruling have on US consumers and more broadly on consumers in the rest of the world? To understand the implications of the decision let’s start with what an explanation of what net neutrality means.
What is net neutrality?
Under the principle of net neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required to handle every internet user’s data in the same way. No individual or company is to be offered or receive preferential treatment. Every website and service gets the same internet speed and quality.
So, whether it’s a media company that is streaming programmes to viewers, or a gamer downloading a new add-on, the cost and quality is the same. In the same way as utilities like telecoms or electricity are regulated as ‘common carriers’ or ‘public carriers’ by providing services to consumers without differentiating or dictating what it is used for.
What could happen without rules to protect net neutrality?
Without net neutrality rules in place for internet service providers however, ISPs will have the freedom to decide how they provide services. Taking the example of streaming services, important in the US where 46 per cent of consumers are subscribers, a video streaming channel provided by one service provider could be purposefully slowed down to inhibit the viewing experience in order to encourage you to use an alternative service preferred by your ISP.
There is a risk that ISPs will offer options that benefit them, but not the user. For instance, the ISPs could, if they chose, create a ‘two tier’ system, providing a fast service for providers that can pay and a slower system for those that can’t. Such a move would create fast and slow lanes whereby providers who can afford to pay, will be able to provide services through a fast and open internet, whilst those who are unable or unwilling to pay, will use a free but grindingly slow and restricted internet.
This could result in a noticeable restriction on the ability of consumers to seek out alternatives to the big companies. If ISPs are given the right to charge businesses for the bandwidth they use, smaller companies or internet start-ups are likely to be frozen out due to financial constraints whilst the big companies who can afford to be “prioritised” will continue to dominate the market place. It is also worth bearing in mind that the competition for space online could lead to rising costs for the companies, making it highly likely this will be passed on to the consumer.
Alongside cost and quality issues, are serious concerns about what the loss of a free and open internet means for inclusion and diversity. Non-discriminatory access principles benefit the creators and consumers of non-mainstream, specialist or culturally specific content which has flourished since the internet become widely available. But it’s not just about news and entertainment. The internet provides access to essential public services, to education, to banking, communication and shopping. It gives people as both citizens and consumers a voice. Any decisions that increase the cost, or lower the quality of the internet would impact those on lower incomes hardest.
Are there any protections in the new law?
The new order attempts to put some checks and balances in place. For example, ISPs will be required to be transparent about what their net neutrality practices are and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be given oversight over the ISPs. However, this is pending a court case and even if the case is decided that the FTC has oversight of ISPs, the FTC will only be able to regulate the ISPs through case-by-case enforcement, thereby leaving consumers less protected and ISPs with little guidance.
Supporters claim the FTC’s oversight or reputational damage and loss of consumer trust will be strong enough to restrict the ISPs from overstepping the law. However, many Americans only have one choice of broadband internet provider and it is unlikely that any reputational damage would lead to a dip in subscriber numbers.
How might this affect consumers around the world?
Consumers around the world use the ISPs operating in their own country to access the internet so won’t be affected by the decisions taken by US ISPs. And because ISPs are regulated nationally, the only direct impact of this US action on other countries will be if they choose to follow the US example.
Many countries already have laws or regulations in place protecting net neutrality and there have been high profile, consumer and citizen led campaigns to make sure they are upheld, such as in India. However, some do not and this change in US law could slow down or reverse the progress that has been made to protect a free internet internationally. In other countries, like Portugal, mobile carriers use the practice of ‘zero rating’ where data from preferred providers doesn’t count towards the subscriber’s data allowance, to get around EU rules on net neutrality. As a result, consumers are faced with a complicated range of tariffs and plans for data use based on a package of brands’ services.
While there is unlikely to be any immediate impact on consumers outside of the USA, ISPs may be emboldened to push for a relaxation of the law. For example, we have already seen ISPs in Canada announce opposition to net neutrality rules in light of the FCC decision.
There may also be opportunities for other jurisdictions to take advantage of the restrictions placed on US companies by promoting opportunities in their markets.
It could also be that the US decision could be manipulated by regimes as a way of legitimising more intrusive restrictions on internet use, where freedom to access content and services is already under severe pressure.
What is going to happen now?
In the US, while the final text is now published, legal challenges from a wide range of organisations, campaigners and politicians are being considered and it is too early to grasp how it will impact consumers.
However, we should not underestimate the impact it will have on the nature of the internet for individuals both as consumers and citizens. Consumer organisations should watch developments closely and understand the relevance for their country, and communicate the arguments and implications of net neutrality to consumers and decision makers.
n 2017, the Internet Society unveiled the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future. The interactive report identifies the drivers affecting tomorrow’s Internet and their impact on Media & Society, Digital Divides, and Personal Rights & Freedoms. We interviewed two people – the new OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and a an emerging leader from Brazil, an Internet Society 25 Under 25 awardee – to hear their different perspectives on the forces shaping the Internet’s future: Harlem Désir and Paula Côrte Real.
Harlem Désir is the Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media. Prior to his current position, Désir was French Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and a member of the European Parliament for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2014.
(You can read Paula Côrte Real’s interview here.)
The Internet Society: What could impact the future of freedom of expression online?
Harlem Désir: There is an ongoing shift under our feet which could result in a less open, global, and free Internet. A combination of factors, including legitimate security concerns in the fight against terrorism or the fight against hate speech and extremism, could lead to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression. It comes with a regression of democratic values in some countries and can result in a situation where more states will be shutting down, blocking sites or platforms, filtering content, and throttling access to the Internet.
Such measures are frequently undertaken with the assistance of or following pressure upon Internet intermediaries on the basis of national security or maintaining the public order. Such reasons are often not genuine or restrictions on freedom of expression online are overbroad. In addition, mass and targeted surveillance of online communications has the effect of “chilling” the online expressions of individuals, notably journalists whose communications with their sources ought to remain confidential as a matter of international and European law, as well as others, such as members of vulnerable groups including LGBTI communities. Finally, journalists, bloggers and other communicators online, particularly if they are female, are increasingly subject to online abuse and harassment, which puts pressure on them to self-censor and distorts democratic debate.
What are the responsibilities of social networks to protect/promote digital rights?
The defence and the promotion of freedom of expression on the Internet, including through social media, has become one of the most important activities of my office. All actors, including Internet intermediaries, have a responsibility to protect fundamental human rights. The distribution of and access to information depend now for most citizens on very few actors like Facebook and Google. These organizations hold a huge power of distribution of information and content. Within a few years, intermediaries have become gatekeepers to the exercise of fundamental human rights, like freedom of expression and information in the online space. Reportedly, Facebook deletes tens of thousands posts per week. This is very concerning and leads to a key question: how safe is media freedom in the hands of intermediaries, when there is limited transparency on the rules and procedures?
At minimum, Internet intermediaries, including social media companies, ought to adopt clear and transparent policies (such as terms of service and community guidelines) and information for how they will be implemented so that individuals can reasonably foresee whether their content is likely to be edited or removed or otherwise affected, or user data is likely to be collected, retained, or passed to law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, such intermediaries should also respect minimum due process guarantees by notifying users when their (the users’) content is taken down or otherwise affected, giving them opportunities to challenge such actions. Finally, Internet intermediaries should support fact-checking initiatives, in cooperation with media organisations, for instance.
How do policymakers balance “competing” rights online, such as protecting citizens, while promoting digital rights?
Policymakers should properly balance “competing” objectives online – notably, freedom of expression on the one hand, and security, equality, and the fight against hate speech on the other – just as they should do offline. This means that any restrictions on freedom of expression online should be provided by law, genuinely serve a legitimate interest, and be necessary in a democratic society. At the same time, there should be a public policy framework for pluralism and equality, the promotion of intercultural understanding by the state, as well as other actors including the media.
How do you see emerging technologies, such as IoT or AI, impacting freedom of expression
Artificial intelligence can pose formidable challenges to freedom of expression, including access to information. It poses questions pertaining to the issue of due process and transparency as we are already observing with reliance on algorithms on social media platforms.
What are your hopes for the future of the Internet? What are your fears?
My hope is that we can successfully defend a global, open and interoperable Internet, and ensure universal access to Internet. My fear is that the Internet as the greatest ever public forum for the exercise of freedom of expression and access to information will be limited and made more exclusive, depending on such factors as which state one lives, how much money one has and one’s identity. I am most fearful of threats to the principle of net neutrality and also to the rights of certain groups – women, minorities, and LGBTI individuals in particular.
What do we need to do today to ensure freedom of expression in the future?
Freedom of expression seems to be pitted against security interests and the wellbeing of our societies in how states frame public policy choices. First, we need to reject the notion that freedom of expression and human rights are detrimental to the security of our societies. I believe the opposite: freedom of expression and human rights positively contribute to security and other interests in our societies. This is also the comprehensive security concept of the OSCE since the adoption of Helsinki Final Act in 1975. We must advocate and raise public awareness of the importance of freedom of expression – for democracy, for finding the best answers to society’s most pressing challenges, for individuals’ and societies’ self-realisation. Second, we must hold states to account for imposing illegitimate and unnecessary restrictions on freedom of expression online. Third, we must urge Internet intermediaries to be more transparent about their approaches to taking down content online and also about the nature of their relationships with states.
What do you think the future of the Internet looks like? Explore the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future to see how connectivity might transform media and societies across the globe, then choose a path to help shape tomorrow.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Internet Society.
Photo: OSCE/Micky Kroell
The 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting aims to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world. The programme, initiatives and projects of the meeting are focused on the theme Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.
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Internet penetration is creeping up in Africa, bringing the prospect of digital dividends to a continent long marked by digital divides.
“Africa has reached a penetration which has broken the barrier of 15 %, and that’s important,” says Nii Quaynor, a scientist who has played a key role in the introduction and development of the internet throughout Africa. He is known as the “father of the Internet” on the continent.
However, Africans have not developed the ability to produce enough software, applications and tools to give economies the dividends they sorely need.
The shift to low-cost submarine connections from satellite connections is less than a decade old. The new undersea fibres have led to a remarkable increase in data transmission capacity that drastically reduces transmission time and cost.
Today 16 submarine cables connect Africa to America, Europe and Asia, and international connectivity no longer presents a significant problem, reports Steve Song, founder of Village Telco, an initiative to build low-cost telephone network hardware and software. This has allowed countries to share information, both within the continent and worldwide, more directly. It has created more space for innovation, research and education.
“Networks have ended the isolation of African scientists and researchers. You now have access to information from the more developed countries, and this is changing the way people think,” says Meoli Kashorda, director of the Kenya Education Network.
Internet penetration on the continent has not kept pace with mobile phone diffusion. In 2016 only 22% of the continent’s population used the Internet, compared to a global average of 44%, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency that deals with issues concerning information and communication technologies. And only 11% of Africans could access 3G internet, which allows mobile operators to offer a high data-processing speed.
Access to technology
The ITU notes that the people most likely to have access to digital technology in Africa are males living in urban areas or coastal cities where undersea fibres are available.
McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, estimates that if Internet access reaches the same level of penetration as mobile phones, Africa’s GDP could get a boost of up to $300 billion. Other experts concur that better access to technology could be a game changer for development and the closing of the income inequality gap in Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the richest 60% are almost three times more likely to have internet access than the bottom 40%, and those in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have access as those in rural areas, according to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016.
The World Bank’s development report of 2016 notes that digital dividends, which it describes as “broader development benefits from using these technologies” have not been evenly distributed. “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access,” maintains the Bank.
Businesses that incorporate digital technologies into their practices will create jobs and boost earnings, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). The bank reported in 2016 that two million jobs will be created in the ICT sector in Africa by 2021. Analyst programmers, computer network professionals, and database and system administrators will find jobs in the sector.
Although the World Bank paints a less rosy picture for digital dividends in Africa, the potential for millions of jobs in the sector is encouraging news for the continent’s youths, who make up 60% of Africa’s unemployed and are jobless at a rate double that of adults. Youths can easily take advantage of the jobs that digital revolution brings, says Bitange Ndemo, a former permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of information and Communication.
Technology can also help bridge inequalities caused by the education gap. According to the UN UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and about 11 are out of school, along with one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and about 14. Almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and about 17 are not in school.
On the bright side, as mobile Internet access expands, so will the Internet’s potential to narrow the continent’s education gap. E-learning continues to grow due to its affordability and accessibility. In fact, IMARC Group, a market research company with offices in India, the UK and the US, reported earlier in 2017 that the e-learning market in Africa will be worth $1.4 billion by 2022. It will improve the education level of Africa’s workforce that will contribute positively to the continent’s economies.
Eneza Education, for example, a Kenya-based learning platform, surpassed one million users in 2016. The platform allows users to access learning materials using various devices. They can access courses and quizzes via text messages for only 10 Kenyan shillings ($.10) per week. Eneza caters to students and teachers in rural areas where opportunities are limited.
Also, Samsung’s Smart Schools initiative equips schools around the world with tablets, PCs and other devices, and builds solar-powered schools in rural areas. Currently 78 Smart Schools are operating in 10 African nations, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The company’s strategy is to encourage underprivileged students to use digital devices.
With women 50% less likely to use the internet than men, some organisations are now making efforts to attract women to the digital world. Digital technologies can provide opportunities for women in the informal job market by connecting them to employment opportunities.
High digital penetration is good, but good governance, a healthy business climate, education and health, also known as “analogue complements,” will ensure a solid foundation for adopting digital technologies and more effectively addressing inequalities, advises the World Bank. Even with increased digital adoption, the Bank says, countries neglecting analogue complements will not experience a boost in productivity or a reduction in inequality.
“Not making the necessary reforms means falling farther behind those that do, while investing in both technology and its complements is the key to digital transformation,” notes Bouthenia Guermazi, ICT practice manager at the World Bank.
Yet digital migration is receiving pushback from obsolete analogue operators who are concerned about the risks of digitizing. Automation poses a threat to those whose jobs can be done by cheaper and more efficient machines, a phenomenon that primarily affects already disadvantaged groups. For example, many banks and insurance companies have automated customer services.
The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants with affordable, high-speed internet by 2020. Likewise, the African Union launched a 10-year mission in 2014 to encourage countries to transition to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies. This mission is part of its ambitious Agenda 2063, aimed at transforming the continent’s socioeconomic and political fortunes.
Rwanda is leading the charge via its Vision 2020 programme, which aims at developing the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country by 2020. Earlier this year, Rwanda rolled out its Digital Ambassadors Programme, which will hire and train about 5,000 youths to teach digital skills to five million people in the rural areas.
Unfortunately, digitization ranks low on the priority lists of many developing countries. And according to a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), productivity gains from digitalization may accrue mainly to those already wealthy and skilled, which is typical in internet platform-based economies, where network effects (additional value for service as more people use it) benefit first movers and standard setters.
In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, an intergovernmental economic organization of 35 countries, where the digital economy has evolved the most, growing use of ICT has been accompanied by an increasing income gap between rich and poor.
The UNCTAD report also states that developing the right ICT policies depends on countries’ readiness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy, but the least-developed countries are the least prepared. To ensure that more people and enterprises in developing countries have the capacity to participate effectively, the international community will need to expand its support.
Ms. Guermazi urges leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to transforming their countries rather than rely on ad hoc initiatives.
“Digital dividends are within reach,” Ms. Guermazi insists. “The outlook for the future is bright.”
It forms the basis for Customs tariffs and statistical nomenclatures around the world and is used for around 98% of world trade.
he Harmonized System (HS) allows a world of many languages to speak with one. A multipurpose nomenclature for trade, the HS is one of the most successful instruments developed by the World Customs Organization. Its Convention has 156 Contracting Parties and the HS is used by more than 200 countries, territories and Customs or Economic Unions. It forms the basis for Customs tariffs and statistical nomenclatures around the world, and is used for around 98% of world trade. The year 2018 marks the 30thAnniversary of the HS which came into effect on 1stJanuary, 1988.
As an international standard with global application, the HS plays a key role in facilitating world trade. The HS is used as the basis for:
- Customs tariffs;
- Trade policies and quota controls;
- Collection of international trade statistics and data exchange;
- Rules of origin;
- Trade negotiations such as the WTO Information Technology Agreement and Free Trade Agreements;
- Monitoring of controlled goods, for example, chemical weapons precursors, hazardous wastes and persistent organic pollutants, ozone-depleting substances and endangered species;
- Many Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessments and profiling, electronic data input and matching and compliance activities; and Economic research and analysis..
The Harmonized System (HS) allows a world of many languages to speak with one. A multipurpose nomenclature for trade, the HS is one of the most successful instruments developed by the World Customs Organization. Its Convention has 156 Contracting Parties and the HS is used by more than 200 countries, territories and Customs or Economic Unions. It forms the basis for Customs tariffs and statistical nomenclatures around the world, and is used for around 98% of world trade. The year 2018 marks the 30thAnniversary of the HS which came into effect on 1stJanuary, 1988.
As an international standard with global application, the HS plays a key role in facilitating world trade. The HS is used as the basis for:
- Customs tariffs;
- Trade policies and quota controls;
- Collection of international trade statistics and data exchange;
- Rules of origin;
- Trade negotiations such as the WTO Information Technology Agreement and Free Trade Agreements;
- Monitoring of controlled goods, for example, chemical weapons precursors, hazardous wastes and persistent organic pollutants, ozone depleting substances and endangered species;
- Many Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessments and profiling, electronic data input and matching and compliance activities; and Economic research and analysis..
The HS is crucial to the development of global trade. It is also fundamental to achieving fair, efficient, and effective revenue collection, a primary Strategic Goal of the WCO. In addition, as it provides an essential tool for the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures and provides the basis of knowing what trade goods are crossing borders, it contributes to other major strategic goals of Customs administrations and of the WCO.
The HS is a living language. We are now in the 6th edition of the HS and in the process of preparing the Seventh Edition of the HS (HS 2022). During the life of the HS, there have been 60 meetings of the Harmonized System Committee (HSC) where 4,144 agenda items were discussed, 10 Recommendations were produced concerning the application of the HS Convention, 2280 classification decisions made and 871 Classification Opinions adopted to ensure the harmonization of classification. On 1st of January 2018, Members can be congratulated on having worked through the 60 HSC meetings, 53 meetings of the Review Sub-Committee (RSC) and 32 meetings of the Scientific Sub-Committee (SSC) to maintain and update the HS to keep it responsive and relevant to current needs.
On the occasion of this anniversary, we call for the international Customs community, in partnership with the international trade community, to continue to be proactive and pursue its efforts to develop and maintain the HS, especially in terms of the application and uniform interpretation of the HS, so as to safeguard and further grow the benefits of this success.
We also invite all of you to celebrate with us, either in your own countries or here in Brussels.
Have you ever asked yourself, ‘what does a trader try to achieve when trading globally beyond making a profit?’ To put it simply, traders want to supply goods that meet their customers’ needs, including their deadlines, as quickly as possible and with minimum cost. However, supplying the goods in time with a minimum cost is not as simple as it sounds. In a global trade transaction, there are national and international regulations or formalities that must be followed. These formalities include significant paperwork and cumbersome processes, which are often referred to as, ‘red tape’. Most of these formalities are carried out behind the border (domestically) or at the border. They include, for example, customs declarations, customs clearance, trading permits, certificates of origin, quality or inspection certifications, and so on. All these formalities require significant paperwork, many days to complete (not including transportation) and they come with a lot of ‘hidden’ costs. The OECD has estimated that simplifying these formalities could save between 2 to 15 percent of the value of goods traded.
What if all these formalities could be done in a few clicks and the lengthy formalities for export and import could be abandoned? Yes, this is a reality in some countries and could be a reality everywhere due to something called an Electronic Single Window system which is based on UNECE Recommendation No. 33. Globally, more than 70 country economies are using Single Window systems, as reported by the World Bank. Through this system, when completely implemented, all the information related to an export or import can be submitted in a single entry point. This means traders no longer need to go to multiple offices, obtain various paper permits and wait uncertainly to clear their goods. All these steps can be finished, at one time, through the Single Window and within a matter of hours (or, in some cases, minutes).
That is just one example of the type of “product” that UNECE offers to facilitate global trade. UNECE has been working to facilitate trade for more than four decades by bringing together a wide range of experts from countries around the globe in order to develop:
- Recommendations and best case scenarios for cutting ‘red tape’ and simplifying trade rules
- A common language (i.e. standards) for transactions and the exchange of trade data between countries
- Guidelines to implement the recommendations and the standards.
To know more about these tools and instruments and how to use them, information free of charge is available at www.tfig.unece.org.
At the age of 20, I aspired to be president; and at the age of 30, I was appointed to work in the office of the presidency of my country. A decade on, I developed a healthy respect and deep sense of humility about what it takes to successfully lead and fulfill expectations of all citizens in a poor developing African state. With 70% of Africans under the age of 30 – mostly poor unemployed and unemployable – I believe there is a dire need for a heightened sense of urgency in the face of growing global and regional political uncertainty.
Centuries ago, Africans were caught off guard by the advent of the First Industrial Revolution, which manifested itself in superior fighting and transport technology. Centuries later past the Scramble for Africa, wars of independence from colonialism, and half a century of struggle to attain economic independence, the continent is confronted with the rising challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While the first revolution was dominated by land ownership and stretched over hundreds of years, the fourth revolution is primarily about knowledge ownership and is moving at the speed of light. This new challenge comes at a time when leaders are grappling with the reality of the failure of past growth to create jobs and reduce poverty and inequality.
Leaders around the continent are facing myriad challenges, ranging from investment downgrades and droughts exacerbated by climate change, to illegal migration and civil protests. More worryingly, the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance highlighted that, among others, the rule of law has declined in over 30 countries since 2006.
The path to inclusive growth
In this context, the theme of the forthcoming World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa, in May 2017 is Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership. Building on global-oriented conversations at our Annual Meeting in Davos this year on Responsive and Responsible Leadership, we hope to expand the conversation on identifying new mechanisms to deliver inclusive growth and development with the regional and global leaders gathered in Durban.
In addition, there is a sense of urgency as more and more young people are turning to violence to express their frustration about lack of progress. Countries like Estonia have shown that it is possible to craft a national digital social order that delivers for all. Call to action: How are you leading change for the 70% under 30 years of age? Please join the #ShapingAfrica conversation and put your issue on the agenda in Durban.
Accordingly, below are three areas in which the continent’s leaders in Durban will explore how to grapple with these new challenges while addressing the inclusivity challenge by embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
1. Mobility-related technology is connecting the continent in unparalleled ways under land, overland and above land. Over 70% of Africans now have unprecedented access to mobile technology. This digital infrastructure offers new opportunities for the majority of poor Africans in rural and informal economies.
After Zipline’s successful launch of drone-delivered blood and medical supplies in Rwanda last year, it is increasingly evident that drones are revolutionizing the small cargo delivery supply chain.
And, with the launch of the Ethiopia-Djibouti train last October, Africa’s high-speed railway network is becoming a reality. Transnet is also leading the way with the first locally “designed, engineered and manufactured” train – the Trans African Locomotive – launching in April 2017.
This year, Africa is expected to launch the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). The key objectives of the CFTA are to boost intra-African trade and investment by easing the movement of goods and people on the continent and to improve Africa’s competitiveness and economic growth by reducing the cost of doing business. Intra-African trade stands at about 15% of total volume, compared to 60% of intercontinental trade in the European Union, 53% in East Asia, 41% in North America and 20% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Achieving this milestone will start to make regional integration a reality. The next step will be to make it easier for Africans to travel within Africa without a visa.
2. Disruptions to manufacturing technology such as the internet of things and 3D printing are liberalizing access to technology and decentralizing production. At Gearbox in Kenya, makers from the informal industry, including jua kali artisans without formal engineering skills, are using 3D printing to manufacture quality products faster and cheaper. Elsewhere, technologists like David Sengeh, inspired by the plight of amputees in Sierra Leone, are harnessing artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop the next generation of prosthetic devices.
These developments notwithstanding, Africa still lags significantly behind the rest of the world in terms of manufacturing. According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s manufacturing exports doubled between 2005 and 2014 to more than $100 billion, with the share of intra-African trade rising from 20% to 34% over the same period. However, Africa’s share of global manufacturing exports remains less than 1%, compared with over 16% for East Asia.
3. Emerging African inventors are re-imagining solutions suited to the African context. It is estimated that, by 2050, over 700 million new housing units will be needed. This implies a radical rethink of what kinds of shelter to construct. Elijah Djan from South Africa is ahead of the curve with his invention of bricks made out of paper, essentially creating a sharing economy by finding a new use for waste. In order for African innovators to thrive, though, policy-makers need to provide a conducive intellectual property regime and make it easier to do business competitively.
For the continent to fully leverage opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, dramatic investments need to be made to ensure that Africans are equipped with the right skills for the future of jobs. For example, the overall shortage of engineers is estimated at 1 million. In addition, more efforts are required to reverse the widening gender digital divide.
When all is said and done, successful implementation will depend on Africans’ shared values and identity. True integration is a bottom-up cultural process, not a top-down political or technical process. Moreover, we cannot assume that we can work together if we do not deliberately build bridges across languages and borders, as well as actively prepare for intergenerational transitions between leaders. In Durban, home to the largest tribe in South Africa and largest diaspora of Indians outside of India, we will discuss how to build a shared understanding and nurture collective responsibility to navigate the transition from Africa 1.0 to Africa 4.0 while strengthening our united socio-cultural heritage.
As we look back to see forward, it is equally important to stop bad traditional practices. Madam Graça Machel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been long-term advocates for Girls Not Brides, a global initiative to end child marriage. Recently, Global Shaper Rebeca Gyumi made history in Tanzania by managing to pass a landmark court ruling against child marriage. Leading change under 30 is possible.
How to sum up 2017?
The global economy improved but there were plenty of unsettling and upsetting events and trends. Catastrophic storms and flooding wrecked homes and livelihoods from South Asia to the Caribbean. Education quality in many countries fell short even as much of the world raced into the digital age. Yet extreme poverty continues to decline. Innovation and technology are enhancing the quality of life. And human capital is now the biggest driver of wealth in the world today.
Egypt launched its new e-commerce strategy in the presence of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi this month during Cairo ICT 2017 – a trade fair for information and communications technology (ICT) organized in North Africa’s most populous city.
The Egyptian government expects the strategy – designed in close collaboration with UNCTAD during the past two years – to double by 2020 the number of businesses in the country selling products and services online. Less than 18% of big companies and just 3% of small businesses currently do so.
“Egypt aspires to harness the power of e-commerce to help catalyze innovation, growth and social prosperity in the digital economy; support and enhance trade; enable the development of new businesses and services; and increase people’s welfare,” Minister of Communications and Information Technology Yasser ElKady said.
“The strategy is a solid foundation for stimulating e-commerce growth in Egypt throughout the coming years,” Minister ElKady said. “I wish to express my appreciation for all the efforts and dedication by UNCTAD.”
The ancient nation has the potential to be one of the Arab-speaking world’s biggest e-commerce markets. Some 60% of the population is aged under 30 and increasingly tech savvy. And more than one-third of the country’s 90 million inhabitants is connected to the Internet.
Yet online commerce has struggled to take root on the banks of the Nile, where less than 3% of those connected to the web use it for shopping.
Part of the reluctance to do business over the Internet comes from entrenched social and cultural preferences for cash payments.
Along with strengthening Egyptians’ trust in online payments, which will require more effective e-commerce laws and regulations, UNCTAD’s analysis highlighted the need to roll out higher-speed broadband through the country.
Without a fast and reliable connection, businesses and customers will struggle to connect to e-commerce platforms and e-marketplaces, and companies will find it difficult to deliver digital services, such as data analytics and digital marketing.
And e-commerce won’t be able to take off unless Egypt strengthens logistics in the sector, especially in rural and remote areas. Even if more goods are purchased online, they still need to be delivered quickly and safely to people’s homes and businesses.
So the strategy aims to:
- Improve the supply of high-speed broadband, especially in rural areas
- Modernize Egypt’s postal authority
- Bolster the legal and regulatory framework for e-commerce
- Build trust in online payments
- Strengthen training and apprenticeships in areas like online store management, digital marketing and data analytics
- Encourage government employees to use e-procurement for low-value goods such as office supplies
While devising the strategy, UNCTAD and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology worked with the World Bank and other United Nations agencies, as well as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Funding was provided by US multinational financial services corporation Mastercard.
As the UN focal point for the development aspects of science, technology and innovation, UNCTAD gives top priority to helping developing countries use ICTs to participate more effectively in the global economy, and ultimately improve the lives of their people.
In addition to national e-commerce strategies, UNCTAD helps developing countries to measure their readiness to take part in the digital economy and to assess the effectiveness of their ICT policies.