UNCTAD set to kick-off Africa eCommerce Week


The United Nations body that oversees trade for development is expected to launch the debut edition of Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya.

The five-day event, which runs December 10-14, is an off-shoot of the global eCommerce Week, hosted in Switzerland each year by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The theme for the conference is “Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era” aimed at exploring business opportunities arising from rapid digitization on the African continent.

According to UNCTAD, the African version of eCommerce Week is a response to increased demand for conversations around trading on the internet.

In 2017, Africa had 21 million online shoppers – showing the enormous potential of the African e-commerce marketplace. However, this is merely 2% of the continent’s population. UNCTAD is hoping to take advantage of efforts by local government to improve internet access and connectivity across Africa.

“Turning this tremendous opportunity into inclusive development requires a massive effort on the part of all of us – in Africa and beyond,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

“We are at a critical juncture – and that it is why UNCTAD decided to have a meeting in Africa, for Africa and by Africa, focused on harnessing the potential of digitalization and the mobile revolution.”

Africa eCommerce Week is co-organized by the African Union and European Union. More than 1,000 participants from 48 countries are expected to grace the event, including entrepreneurs, CEOs and civil society representatives.

The conference is expected to answer questions related to accelerating e-commerce readiness, expanding the ICT infrastructure, improving access to finance and improving skills required for a digital economy.

“To power e-commerce in Africa, it is not just enough to have deep internet penetration and a lot of smartphones, but to have an inter-intra city infrastructure that allows businesses to reach customers everywhere effectively and efficiently,” according to Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile network. Safaricom is the parent company of the e-commerce platform, Masoko.