unctad.org | Nairobi e-commerce conference heralds dawn of digital Africa
Nairobi e-commerce conference heralds dawn of digital Africa
07 December 2018
Africa e-week
UNCTAD eCommerce Week, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10-14 December, is being held "in Africa, for Africa and by Africa" for the first time.


Dawn is breaking on the digital age in Africa, with the almost limitless opportunities of e-commerce lighting a path to lasting and transformative economic growth, more than 1,000 participants from 48 countries will discover at the first UNCTAD Africa eCommerce Week taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10–14 December.

UNCTAD estimates that while there were at least 21 million online shoppers in Africa in 2017, this was less than 2% of the world total, and just three countries on the continent – Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya – accounted for almost half this figure. The scale of the untapped benefits of e-commerce is vast.

“Turning this tremendous opportunity into inclusive development requires a massive effort on the part of all of us – in Africa and beyond,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“We are at a critical juncture – and that is why UNCTAD decided to have a meeting in Africa, for Africa and by Africa, focused on harnessing the potential of digitalization and the mobile revolution.”

Africa e-Week

With the theme Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era, Africa eCommerce Week responds to the growing demand for dialogue between governments, the private sector, civil society groups and multilateral institutions on how Africa can reap the harvest of the digital commercial revolution already taking place.

The landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed in March 2018, foresees increased intra-African trade – but with trade more and more taking place online, the need to understand the implications of e-commerce for African economies only grows.

E-commerce economy

Senior political leaders will join representatives of 330 businesses, including 50 corporate leaders, and entrepreneurs from start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – among them African graduates of UNCTAD’ eFounders Fellowship programme.

Also taking part will be civil society delegates, officials from more than 20 international organizations, and eTrade for all partners. The event is co-organized by UNCTAD, the African Union and the European Union.

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said he was looking forward to the conference.

“It will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen regional co-operation as well as Europe’s relationship with Africa and to continue this dialogue on how to facilitate inclusive development from digitalization,” he said.

“In some African countries, the Digital Single Market approach being followed in Europe is already resonating as a model that can be embraced with immediate impact and benefit. Africa’s progress in building its own single digital market will boost its SMEs by promoting the alignment of rules and regulations, as well as reducing the cost of cross-border parcel delivery – just two examples,” Mr. Ansip added.

Conference sessions will tackle the following challenges, among others:

  • Accelerating the e-trade readiness of African countries

  • Expanding access to affordable and reliable information and telecommunications infrastructure and services

  • Fostering skills for the digital economy

  • Boosting financial inclusion through mobile money

  • Improving access to finance for digital entrepreneurs

Other topics include online trust – how to divide the good, the illicit, and the mislabeled – taxation in the digital economy, consumer protection, a single window at the borders, e-commerce and commodity dependence, trade logistics, digital identities, and much more.

UNCTAD will also launch its new Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-Commerce Index 2018 during the conference.

Africa eCommerce Week takes place at the United Nations Office in Nairobi and is hosted by the Government of Kenya.


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