(Ecofin Agency) - With the African Continental Free Trade Area operational since January 1, 2021, African countries have great e-commerce opportunities to exploit. However, they need well-adapted policies to take full advantage of this market.
Last December 17, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group approved a $1.5 million grant to Smart Africa Alliance, a grouping of 32 African countries, organizations, and international companies that share the vision of a single digital marketplace on the continent. The money, which comes from the African Development Fund, AfDB Group’s concessional window, will be used to assess policy gaps in the digital and e-commerce ecosystems of ten countries, including Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“One of the critical challenges preventing the continent from preparing for Africa’s bold new future is the inability to conduct cross-border payments for goods and services due to a lack of solutions and crippling policies. Our partnership with the African Development Bank is crucial in creating an enabling environment to advance e-payments, and the digital economy is essential for Africa’s renaissance,” said Lacina Koné (pictured), CEO of Smart Africa.
As part of its mission, Smart Africa Alliance will consult public and private sector players to develop an e-learning program that will directly benefit 600 stakeholders. These include government officials, SMEs, and private mobile operators; 2,500 other stakeholders are expected to be impacted indirectly.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) gathers 1.2 billion people and a GDP of $2.5 trillion in the 55 member states of the African Union. It is presented by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) as a bearer of tremendous opportunities for e-commerce on the continent. But for this prospect to become a reality, the legal framework in each African nation needs to comply with international trade standards. According to Nicholas Williams, the Bank’s Division Manager for ICT Operations, “this project is both timely and vital. For the continent to create a unified digital market by 2030, efforts should focus on harmonizing and building a cohesive policy environment for intra-continental trade.”