Entrepreneurs and small business must be included in the e-commerce revolution, an exciting opportunity to create jobs and livelihoods all around the world, the UNCTAD Secretary-General said ahead of a meeting on small business and e-trade.
With the global economy now in its sixth sluggish year of growth, many are hoping that e-commerce can generate the jobs and livelihoods that more traditional work has been unable to provide. Last year the global market for electronic commerce was worth around $22.1 trillion, up 38 percent from 2013.
"E-commerce is a train that has left the station and is quickly gathering speed," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
"The challenge is to get as many people aboard this train as possible, so that e-commerce can usefully contribute to inclusive growth," he added, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and goal 8 in particular.
Dr. Kituyi was speaking ahead of a high-level conversation, entitled "Empowering SMEs through e-Trade and Investment Facilitation" at the UN Headquarters in New York on 20 September, involving both Dr. Kituyi and Jack Ma, the Special Advocate on the SDGs.
Robert Azevedo, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) will also attend.
The conversation will look at ways to engage entrepreneurs and small business in the e-trade revolution.
By connecting untapped markets through internet and mobile network platforms, online commerce can allow entrepreneurs and small business to produce and trade goods and services, source inputs, reach customers and clients, and connect to global and regional value chains.
But a huge gap is opening up between countries and firms that are able to exploit these opportunities and those that cannot. Existing platforms and rules for global trade are skewed towards the interests of large corporations, leaving few opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The conversation takes place just two months after UNCTAD's work on e-commerce took a significant jump forward with the July launch of the e-Trade for All initiative (link) at the UNCTAD 14 Conference in Nairobi. The initiative brings together 15 international organizations and 22 private sector actors together, easing developing country access to cutting edge technical assistance and giving donors more options for funding.
The initiative also supports the December 2015 call by the UN General Assembly to better use information and communication technology to achieve the SDGs.