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East African community adopts framework for cyberlaws to foster regional trade, investment

21 June 2010

Geneva, 21 June 2010 -- A three-day meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Task Force on Cyberlaws concluded today in Kigali, Rwanda, with community members focused on putting into effect a Framework for Cyberlaws recently adopted by the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers on Transport, Communications, and Meteorology.

The Framework was prepared with the assistance of UNCTAD, and the Kigali meeting marked the second phase of UNCTAD support, during which EAC officials will consider legal issues such as intellectual property rights along with such matters as competition, e-taxation, and information security. During the workshop, partner States were briefed on existing resources at the international and regional levels that can be of use when designing domestic legislation on cyberlaws.

The Framework was signed on 7 May, and through it the five partner States -- Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda -- committed themselves to enacting cyberlaws that will be effective across the region. The States consider the adoption of harmonized cyberlaws critical for implementing e-government services effectively, and for increasing regional trade and investment.

E-government and e-commerce strategies need strong legislative backing on electronic transactions, electronic signatures and authentication, data protection and privacy, consumer protection, and prevention of computer crime. The Framework addresses those issues and provides guidelines for the enactment and enforcement of harmonized cyberlaws. The creation of an enabling legal and regulatory environment was identified in the e-Government Programme initiated by the EAC secretariat in 2005 as being critical to effective e-government and e-commerce strategies.

The Kigali meeting also reviewed progress by EAC partner States in preparing and adopting cyberlaws. Apart from the Republic of Burundi, which is currently drafting its cyberlaws in conformity with the agreed Framework, other partner States have already made significant advances. Kenya adopted in 2009 a law addressing e-transactions, e-signatures, consumer protection, and computer crime. In Rwanda, a draft information and communication technology (ICT) bill was prepared in 2009 covering the issues of e-signatures, consumer protection, privacy, and content regulation. Last February, the country prepared a draft criminal law on cybercrime. Rwandan laws on digital copyright and e-contracting were passed earlier this year. In Tanzania, the Central Bank, the Tanzanian Revenue Authority, and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority are setting up an e-procurement system for the Tanzanian Public Service. The Government of Uganda in 2009 passed bills on electronic transactions, electronic signatures, and computer misuse.

Policymakers of developing countries are increasingly aware of the necessity of adapting and harmonizing their legislation to take into account the Internet economy and the role e-commerce can play in boosting domestic and cross-border business and investment. UNCTAD supports such capacity-building activities in all developing regions and helps lawmakers to prepare cyberlaws. UNCTAD also carries out regional studies to assess the status of national cyberlaws and regional initiatives to harmonize such laws. A study on cyberlaw harmonization in Africa is under way. Studies have already been prepared for South America and Central America.

Commenting on the EAC´s efforts, UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said last month, "Governments have a key role to play in fostering greater benefits from ICTs. In particular, they should provide an enabling policy, legal, and regulatory environment that encourages the growth of e-commerce and e-governance. I congratulate the East African Community for pioneering in Africa the adoption of a regional harmonized Framework for Cyberlaws."

UNCTAD´s work in the EAC region is supported by the Government of Finland.

For more information, please contact Cécile Barayre at cecile.barayre@unctad.org, tel. +41 22 917 53 69.

For more information, please contact:
UNCTAD Communications and Information Unit
T: +41 22 917 5828
T: +41 79 502 43 11
E: unctadpress@unctad.org
Web: www.unctad.org/press


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