The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopts E-commerce Strategy to support Member States in leveraging e-commerce to build resilient micro-small and medium sized enterprises, create new jobs and spur economic diversification.
The 90th Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Ministers endorsed the ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy at its last meeting held from the 6 – 7 July 2023. This step follows its adoption by ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry (ECOMOTI) at the 3rd Ministerial meeting which held from the 27th – 28th April, in Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire.
The ECOWAS Commission developed the E-commerce Strategy (ECS) with the support of the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD) with the objective to strengthen the efforts of ECOWAS Member States on the use of technology to accelerate structural change and development, foster regional integration, including through economic diversification, job creation and more inclusive trade activities.
With the vision for a “sustainable, inclusive, and secure e-commerce ecosystem supportive of ECOWAS’ efforts to use technology to accelerate structural change and foster regional integration through economic diversification and job creation.” The Strategy aims to strengthen ministries of trade to support domestic and cross-border e-commerce development, secure trust along the e-commerce supply chain from producers to consumers, improve access to e-commerce statistics and market information in ECOWAS, and foster inclusion for e-commerce development in ECOWAS.
It further aims to support Member States in leveraging the entrepreneurial propensity of women in the region, harnessing the potential of ECOWAS’ youthful population, addressing access to e-commerce for people with disabilities, and providing incentives for the formalization of informal cross-border traders (ICBTs).
The ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy is one of several initiatives of the ECOWAS Commission, along with its Information Communication Strategy and Private Sector Development Strategy that feeds into the digital transformative agenda of the Commission’s ECOWAS Vision 2050.
“The ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy will carve out space for the development of e-commerce within the larger national digital economy priorities of Member States” said Massandjé Toure-litse, Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture at the ECOWAS Commission. Further adding that “e-commerce growth in the region has the potential to create opportunities for inclusive growth that could deliver on the creation of new jobs, support for micro-small and medium-sized enterprises and spur industry and economic diversification”
Through direct engagement with stakeholders, the ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy draws on input from direct consultations with over 450 key stakeholders in the region, over 191 targeted institutions from the public and private sectors and an in-depth eT Trade Readiness Assessment conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy reflects the priorities of Member States and the immediate needs of actors in the ecosystem.
“The Commission will continue to work with Member States to address some of the broader challenges hampering access, affordability and adoption of e-commerce in the region but this needs to be done in tandem with direct policy interventions to improve business conditions for existing and potential e-commerce merchants and build resilient businesses that deepen intra-regional trade” said Massandjé TOURE-LITSE, Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture at the ECOWAS Commission.
The ECOWAS E-commerce Strategy follows the development of an e-commerce strategy by the African Union and is adopted ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area’s digital trade protocol currently under negotiation.