How to leverage e-commerce for trade development in the ACP countries

1 October 2013
ITC News
Welcome remarks by the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, at WTO Public Forum 2013
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon and welcome.

On behalf of the International Trade Centre I would like to thank our colleagues at the World Trade Organization for the opportunity to co-host today’s session, which reflects the increased interests among ACP countries, and indeed all WTO Members, in the topic of e-commerce. I extend my thanks to the ACP office in Geneva and to the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Office for partnering with ITC today.

The global economy relies on innovation to streamline supply chains, connect businesses to these supply chains and to make the act of trading and doing business more efficient and more profitable. Innovation is a well-recognised driver for economic growth and job creation in the most advanced economies. Emerging economies as well are successfully investing in people and processes to become more innovative.

The challenge is how do we collectively make innovation a real policy directive and game changer in developing countries and in Least Developed countries? How do we harness the immense intellectual and entrepreneurial potential in these countries and challenge it towards products and policies that would allow leapfrogging over developmental stages. These countries, especially the ACP countries, are generating innovation, but not on a sufficient scale that it fully permeates the economy and becomes an enabler for growth and poverty reduction.

I firmly believe that with the right support, the SMEs in these economies can be provided with the right menu of policies, adapted to their context, which would allow them to take advantage of innovative technologies for increasing the slate of services provided and to leapfrog to the next level.

Effectively integrating an E-commerce pillar has a multitude of deliverables and positive externalities for the way that SMEs do business. From using e-platforms to facilitate the quicker and cheaper import and export of goods- both finished goods and components- to broadening the consumer and customer base, E-Commerce is a tool for profitability, for outreach and for improving the reach and impact of SMEs.

We have seen how using e-commerce and ICT platforms have transformed the market knowledge and business connectivity of farmers in Kenya and in Ethiopia for example. There are examples of SMEs taking their products and services to a wider audience than previously possible through using e-platforms. ITC’s aim is to build on these successes and help SMEs learn from other SMEs and governments who have been able to break into the virtual field and use it as a navigating tool for enhanced productivity and connectivity. Connecting SMEs to value chains through vertically integrated market places is the future.

With the rich line up of speakers you have before you today I expect that the joint ITC, ACP and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung session will be a source of inspiration and inter- and intra- agency learning. It will provide best practices on how ACP countries can engage in online trade and show that some of you are already doing this or have the potential to do this. Online trade has tremendous opportunities: Business-to-consumer sales alone have topped 1 trillion in 2012. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in comparison with the potential for business-to-business electronic commerce.

Today’s dialogue is designed to be interactive and is premised on uncovering innovative ways for stakeholders to cooperate and support the development of a vibrant internet economy and extending its transformative effects more inclusively throughout the developing world.

Thank you very much.