In a recent press release, International Trade Center (ITC) Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton, has urged East African youth to set their sights on the rapidly developing e-commerce industry in the region. The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which is set to launch in 2021, is projected as a valuable tool to help youth tap into the 26 million USD global online sales market.
Pamela Coke-Hamilton outlined the same idea during the Trade Beyond COVID-19 forum in Nairobi. The director told participants that current trends within the continent are ideal for ditching outdated systems of commerce. She also outlined how a focus on e-commerce is crucial for inclusive development. Considering the impact that a more digital economy will have on the inclusion of youth and women, experts like Pamela are calling on these groups to rapidly adapt and embrace the global digital order.
The director also addressed AfCFTA member states and urged them to remove many of the trade barriers that plague the continent and stagnate its development path. Some experts, however, caution against making radical policy changes citing the lack of the appropriate legal infrastructure for digital transformation in some countries. Others remain wary of issues like affordable connectivity, cybercrime, and data privacy, given the struggles the continent already faces in dealing with these issues.
The ITC plans on providing assistance to these nations, however, with capacity building and advisory services already being set into motion. According to the ICT Director, this is also why e-commerce should be the primary area of focus as it is an industry that can set the standard as well as allow officials across different nations to roll out simultaneous policies that facilitate cooperative solutions where one nation is strong in a certain field and another is lacking.
Similarly, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi emphasized the vital role of the free trade area to boost growth opportunities across the continent.
According to United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Trademark East Africa, the implementation of the AfCFTA in Eastern Africa could result in welfare gains of 1.8 billion USD, a boost to intra-African exports by more than 1.1 billion USD, and the creation of more than two million new jobs. Conversely, e-commerce is projected to create as many as 3 million new jobs by 2025.