December 14, 2018
Electronic commerce, and digital trade and technology more generally, can stimulate
development, generate jobs and help build sustainable livelihoods. However just like
previous changes in technology and trading patterns, for developing countries to benefit,
they need the right policies and institutional support, both domestically and internationally.
This conference has well highlighted the opportunities of e-commerce for African
entrepreneurs, but the primary challenge is to harness digital industrialization for structural
transformation of the continent.
Nearly all digital trade is currently dominated by a few global players from the United States
and China through platforms that are not simply disrupting and re-organizing economic
activity but leading to digital domination. In order to trade, we have to produce. If we expand
digital trade without first improving our productive capacities, as well as closing the digital
divide through improvements in our physical infrastructure as well as interconnectivity, we
will be simply opening our economies even further to imports from outside the region. Thus,
further liberalization in the digital sphere, without the necessary domestic investments to
improve productive capacities, will destroy jobs, decimate micro, small and medium
enterprises (MSMEs), and distort development.