Written byAndrus Ansip European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market
I am looking forward to opening the first ever e-commerce week in Africa, in Nairobi. 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.
Both continents need true and fair partnership, which is why the European Commission proposed in September a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs: to boost investment in Africa, strengthen trade, create jobs and invest in education and skills.
This Alliance requires mutual trust from both sides, sustainable economic development and the long-term commitment of the private sector and public authorities.
There are huge opportunities that can benefit African and European economies alike. E-commerce in particular, as well as the digital economy, can play a key role in improving the availability of goods and services for African consumers, increasing market access for African SMEs and in encouraging new investments that in turn create new jobs. Both of them are transforming the world economy at an impressive rate.
This represents an exciting opportunity and also a formidable challenge for governments and policymakers, who often struggle to get the right laws and policies put in place. The problems that they face are well known: inadequate infrastructure, a patchwork of markets and laws, poor enforcement of data protection rules and, more generally, barriers to trade between countries.
The EU faces several of the very same challenges - market fragmentation, for example - and is keen to share its experience in the Digital Single Market to support the capacity of African and European companies to carry out business smoothly between countries.
In the EU, the e-commerce directive is the basic legal structure that governs online services in the European internal market and gives legal certainty to business and people in their cross-border online transactions. The world’s reaction to the General Data Protection Regulation will also give us much to discuss during the e-commerce week.
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.
The EU is pleased to work with the African Union Commission and our international partners at UNCTAD and the WTO to support this important initiative.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNCTAD