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EDD19 - Great success for TCII Lab Events

Posted on: June 20, 2019

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The 14th edition of the European Development Days (EDD 2019) took place in Brussels at Tour & Taxi on 18-19 June 2019 under the theme of “Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind”. The EU-ACP TradeCom II Programme organised two debates on pressing development issues in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (the ACP Group).

Unlocking digital opportunities: promoting e-commerce for inclusive trade growth

The session Unlocking digital opportunities: promoting e-commerce for inclusive trade growth – Leaving no one behind: investing in inclusiveness of trading opportunities through e-commerce in small-island and land-locked ACP Economiesmoderated by Axel Pougin de la Maissonneuve (Deputy Head of Unit, EU - DG DEVCO) was aimed at responding to the question: Can the digital economy deliver on its aim of inclusiveness, leaving no one behind, and seek to provide related solutions for ACP countries, specifically small-Island and land-locked economies?

The digitalization of the global economy is increasingly gaining terrain as the use of modern technologies is catapulting global exchanges into new dimensions. Developing countries, and specifically, ACP countries, can also leapfrog into global prosperity through E-commerce in the digital age. However, they face inherent challenges of a weak private sector, high trade costs and lack of the availability of trade data in order to bolster opportunities for SMEs and boost intra-regional trade. E-commerce is seen as a catalyst to boosting exports to foreign markets, and also to tap into foreign supply chains, supporting entrepreneurship and promoting the integration of MSMEs into value chains so as to become global entities. However, to do so, many developing countries require more time and policy space to implement these requirements in a proper manner. Moreover, many ACP countries are taking a precautionary approach to E-commerce in general.

Therefore, arises the problematic of how to make future trade more inclusive for Small States, LDCs, ACP countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, and more equal for women and young entrepreneurs. How sustainable is technology-enabled trade and is the risk of displacement of slower-paced developing countries real, as a result of their limited access to global value chains, markets and technology. For the time being, there is a concentration of data intensive companies in the developed world and some companies are already reaping the benefits of the digital age, while most developing countries lag behind.

Axel Pougin de la Maisonneuve opened the floor asking crucial questions that underlie discussions around digital trade and developing countries include:

  1. How to apprehend the existence of technical gaps among global economies countries and its impact on the existence of gender disparity?
  2. The digital revolution implies an intellectual and structural revolution and this is the bottom line for ACP countries – how quickly can they transition into software and dematerialisation that characterise the types of services required by global digital trade?
  3. Does equality in the digital age mean leaving no one behind?
  4. Is the digitalization of the economy a double-edged sword?
  5. E-commerce as a vector of or solution to inequality among states and within states?
  6. How can e-commerce serve to promote inclusiveness for women and youth?

Shamika Sirimanne, Director, Division Technology & Logistics UNCTAD pointed out that e-commerce is an extremely fast growing area and its opportunities are enormous, but only small niche areas (tourism, value added food products, creative economic activities) are benefiting from e-commerce. “When we look at the differences among developed and developing countries the digital divide is still huge” she said. A digitalisation that overcomes technical barriers like connectivity (50% of the world don’t have access to internet), payment systems, legal regulatory frameworks (cyber security, consumers protection) and access to e-commerce platforms, will allow small farmers, producers, women entrepreneurs to better sell their products, and consumers to benefit from a larger choice and lower prices.

Viwanou Gnassounou, ASG of the ACP Secretariat recalled the strong potential of e-commerce but also the need to invest on non-physical infrastructures that can bring knowledge, information on the e-commerce solutions among the developing countries to those that can benefit from these solutions. Furthermore, he urged the development Institutions (ACP, EU, WTO) to foster partnerships that can mobilize resources and support ACP Countries to choose to access to e-commerce and digital solutions that can help to improve the profitability of economic sectors with a great potential like, agriculture, farming and make these sectors more attractive for young people and entrepreneurs.

Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) focused her intervention on young entrepreneurs and their need for an enabling environment. They need policy measures that could drive foreign investments in Africa to build infrastructures, create a unified market and offer business opportunities. There are millions of African young people with amazing innovative ideas waiting to transform these ideas into reality. They need an enabling environment, trainings and funding. Africa can only be developed by Africans since they know what the problems are, they are on the field, they can solve the problems but they need to benefit from a massive cooperation among the private sector and with development organisations and institutions.   

Paolo CICCARELLI, Head of Unit at DG DEVCO stated that the EU is the best example of digital single market in the world with a great attention to the rules on data security, consumers’ protection, human rights. This is the best added value support that EU can give to ACPs on these soft issues that are as important as the financial support in the creation of an open and accessible digital market.

H.E. Mere Falemaka, Permanent Delegation of The Pacific Islands Forum to the WTO went through the challenges of the Pacific Countries. The most of Pacific Islands face a lack of soft infrastructure. Many of them don’t have supporting legislation in place, or policies on how to handle e-commerce, any regulatory framework on data and consumers’ protection. Partnerships with international governments and institutions are helping Pacific countries to bridge the digital divide in terms of physical infrastructures. The knowledge, skills and regulatory frameworks on e-commerce are challenges that the Pacific countries are addressing with the support of Institution such as UN, WTO and EU (through the technical assistance of the TradeCom II Programme).

 

Partnerships for broad-based and inclusive economic development in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries

The session Partnerships for broad-based and inclusive economic development in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries” was organised by World Bank jointly with EC, ACP Secretariat, ITC, UNIDO and TradeCom II Programme.

Despite the heterogeneity of ACP countries, an important common challenge is to promote the private sector as an active development partner by closing the investment gap and improving the ability of domestic firms to compete in international markets through global and regional value chains. ACP countries need to gradually integrate into the global economy, while keeping poverty and inequality reduction at the core of their reform efforts. Inclusive and sustainable growth is only possible by ensuring that a vibrant private sector creates more and better jobs. For the private sector to thrive, it needs enabling business-friendly policies and laws, as well as an enabling ecosystem that fosters business productivity and competitiveness.

The new perspectives brought by global commitments such as the United Nations 2030 Agenda place a great emphasis on the role of the private sector for inclusive and sustainable growth, and on the need for using official development assistance (ODA) to leverage public and private investments to this effect.

In this context, the panel, moderated by Antti Karhunen (Head of Private Sector Unit at DG DEVCO), through the contribution of  Viwanou Gnassounou, (Assistant Secretary General, ACP Secretariat), Philippe Scholtes (Managing Director for the Programme Development and Technical Cooperation of the UNIDO), Hernan Manson (Head Inclusive Agribusiness at International Trade Center) and Christine Qiang (Practice Manager of the Macro, Trade and Investment of World Bank Group) redefined new perspectives regarding the role of private sector development and engagement in the framework of the ACP-EU partnership. In order to achieve sustainable development and create jobs, with a population, which is, expected to double by 2050, private investment must increase significantly.

This discussion was aimed at showcasing how a renewed partnership between very different, but complementary institutions (such as EU, ACP, UN, WTO and World Bank) can provide different layers of expertise, providing higher impact towards achieving economic and social development in partner countries through implementing an ACP-EU innovative programme for ACP countries that ensure a joint approach towards supporting business-friendly inclusive and responsible national policies as well as strengthening productive value chains.

 

The two sessions were well attended and were considered by all the participants to have been a great success in terms of participation and quality of discussion.

Programme funded by European Union at the request of ACP Group - Implemented by AESA CONSORTIUM