Dr Kituyi and Jack Ma highlight e-commerce opportunities for the developing world and governments show support

27 April 2017

The High-level panel discussion set the tone for the rest of the E-commerce week, which runs from 24-28 April 2017 on the theme "Towards Inclusive E-Commerce".

"Over the past 20 years, we have witnessed the mistakes of celebrating opportunity without facing challenges.

The phenomenal rise of e-commerce must be saved from a similar fate," said Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi Secretary-General of UNCTAD during a high-level panel at E-commerce week held on April 25.

Distinguished speakers included Dr. Kituyi, Jack Ma (Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group and UNCTAD Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business), Roberto Azevêdo (Director-General of World Trade Organization), Houlin Zhao (Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union) and Amanda Long (Director-General of Consumers International).

In front of an audience of over 800 attendees, the speakers discussed the topic, "Digital Transformation for All: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Small Business".

"The appetite for digital economy can inspire the development of other infrastructure sectors," said Dr. Kituyi, "e-commerce provides many opportunities for growth in the developing world but we need to seize those opportunities now," he added.

Responding to comments from ministers, Jack Ma said "E-commerce is designed for the developing world. If you want to do it, you are ready. Don't wait."

Eight Ministers from Bhutan, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan and Thailand made interventions during the high-level discussion showing support for e-commerce. They also highlighted some of the on-the-ground issues faced by countries attempting to enable an environment for e-commerce development.

Moderated by award-winning BBC journalist Nancy Kacungira, the discussion covered topics ranging from job creation, e-commerce trade regulations, strategies for making e-commerce more inclusive, increasing digital infrastructure and more.

"We have two challenges at WTO on E-commerce. One is defining what E-commerce means for everyone and two is inclusivity in trade for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)," said Roberto Azevêdo of Director-General of World Trade Organization.

During the over-two hours of interactive conversation, the speakers suggested new ideas for leveraging e-commerce technologies and e-commerce solutions for sustainable development.

"I encourage increased investment in broadband to continue to improve infrastructure and connect the unconnected," said Houlin Zhao the Secretary-General of ITU.

"We have the B20, but we need the B200, to create rules and laws to support the small guys, not control them" said Mr Ma.

The high-level panel discussion sets the tone for the rest of the E-commerce week's discussions. E-commerce week runs from 24-28 April 2017 on the theme "Towards Inclusive E-Commerce".

The high-level panel was live-streamed and the recording can be found here.


UNCTAD supports developing countries to access the benefits of a globalized economy more fairly and effectively. The organization aims to help equip countries to deal with the potential drawbacks of greater economic integration. To do this, UNCTAD provides analysis, consensus-building, and technical assistance. This helps them to use trade, investment, finance, and technology as vehicles for inclusive and sustainable development. UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964.

About E-commerce Week

The third edition of UNCTAD's E-Commerce Week comes at a crucial moment where many governments are analyzing the impact of the digital economy and e-commerce on global growth.

E-commerce is recognized as an important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth, and holds huge potential for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worldwide. While e-commerce B2C sales have dramatically increased in developed economies, they are still at their infancy in many developing countries, especially in LDCs.

This year's E-Commerce Week, with the theme "Towards Inclusive E-Commerce", will offer a platform for participating stakeholders to discuss key challenges and opportunities related to e-commerce and define concrete actions towards more inclusive trade, global benefits and sustainable development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.