ecomConnect Day on the future of e-commerce held by the International Trade Centre and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa last 4 June

Policymakers and business leaders reviewd the implications for e-commerce in Africa and beyond; workshops addressed COVID-19 challenges


The International Trade Centre (ITC) held its first ecomConnect Day on the future of e-commerce last 4 June 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The online event focused on how e-commerce can help Africa’s businesses survive and relaunch in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, e-commerce solutions have played a critical role in ensuring business continuity for many companies. They have been a crucial channel for providing vital goods and services. For many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa, e-commerce has offered a lifeline and can continue to play a principal role in their economic recovery.

‘Digital solutions will be at the heart of the recovery and resilience of business and trade in Africa,’ said ITC acting Executive Director Dorothy Tembo. ‘But there is a need to address the gaps in e-commerce readiness between countries and between large and small firms, and better connect the unconnected to the digital grid.’

To benefit from the digital revolution, Africa must ensure that the policy environment, infrastructure and services accelerate the adoption of e-commerce to enable more cross-border trade, economic growth and the creation of jobs.

Stephen Karingi, Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of UNECA, said: ‘The February 2020 African Union Summit announced that digital trade and e-commerce will now be included in Phase III negotiations under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), offering a great opportunity for Africa to design a policy regime to support the digital development of the continent.’

The first ecomConnect Day brought together several policymakers, industry leaders, and experts to explore what opportunities e-commerce can bring to Africa as part of ITC and UNECA’s contribution to AfCFTA implementation. The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) and the Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) helped co-organized two thematic panels that took place in the first part of the Day.

The first session brought together high-level speakers to explore the AfCFTA and its impact on e-commerce. Speakers included Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry of Rwanda, Albert Muchanga, African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Henri Monceau, Director of Digitalization, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and Elsie S. Kanza, Head and Member of the Executive Committee, the World Economic Forum. The second session addressed the immediate challenges of economic recovery, how e-commerce can spur growth in Africa and the importance of an inclusive approach to building the digital economy.

Afternoon sessions comprised five technical workshops for e-commerce entrepreneurs and business support organizations. The sessions looked at e-commerce responses to COVID-19 and offered specific insights into e-commerce logistics, understanding and targeting market opportunities, and the implications for small firms selling internationally.

ecomConnect Day was successfully organized by ITC’s ecomConnect, which links experts and partners in a bid to deliver improved skills and capacities for e-commerce, and to support MSMEs in becoming more competitive online.

On ecomConnect Day, ITC launched the ecomConnect platform. This portal links a network of dedicated experts and practitioners and online resources addressed at the ‘e-commerce divide.’ ecomConnect is ITC’s e-commerce engagement platform with a special focus in developing and least developed countries.

ITC also presented the “COVID-19 response guide for E-commerce businesses”, which offers a selection of tips for entrepreneurs to improve their business practices and use of digital tools to capture some of the immediate opportunities offered through digital business.

We encourage you to register on ITC’s ecomConnect platform to find this guide and all the resources used during the event, such as presentations and workbooks.

Written by ITC