Whilst the rapid development of the digital economy is creating both opportunities and challenges for developing countries, a wide e-commerce divide remains.
“Through financing this initiative, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland is acknowledging the need for a more concerted effort from the international community to ensure that e-commerce becomes a powerful driver of economic growth, inclusive trade and job-creation in the developing world,” said the spokesperson for the Ministry.
Global estimates of e-commerce confirm that e-commerce is growing faster than previously thought. UNCTAD data shows that e-commerce sales reached more than $25 trillion in 2015. However, concerns have been raised about the numbers of people who do not have access to e-commerce opportunities. More than half of the world’s population still has no access to the internet, and in Africa that share is about 75%.
The financial support from Finland will contribute to leveraging current activities under eTrade for all aimed at helping developing countries engage in and benefit more from e-commerce.
Launched in July 2016, eTrade for all is a demand-driven mechanism with the objective of unlocking the potential of e-commerce for development. It includes leading development partners and is implemented in close collaboration with the private sector. With the World Economic Forum as the most recent member, the initiative now has 24 official partners and 33 members in its private sector arm, the Business for eTrade Development.
In April 2017, UNCTAD launched the eTrade for all online platform (etradeforall.org). It serves as a new information hub to help developing countries navigate the wealth of technical and financial support they may need to drive development through e-commerce. On this platform, countries can now connect with potential partners, learn about trends and best practices and access up-to-date e-commerce data.
UNCTAD initiated eTrade for all recognising that while numerous development partners, foundations, and private sector actors were working from different angles on e-commerce for development, efforts were fragmented, non-transparent and of insufficient scale.
The international community acknowledges the cross-cutting role of information and communications technology for achieving the sustainable development goals. However, enhancing the e-trade readiness of developing countries is essential to ensure that digital transformations help rather than hinder their development.
“The international community has to work together to scale up the assistance to developing countries for e-commerce readiness. Finland’s generous support is very welcome in this context,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi. Who also praised its geographic expansion in promising markets, while continuing to manage costs.
UNCTAD eTrade for All initiative