Handbook on E-Commerce and Digital Trade for Least Developed Countries, Small States and Sub-Saharan Africa​

The Project at A Glance

The advances in technology enable firms to enter and establish a strong presence in markets even with limited investment in inventory and physical capital. E-commerce has been instrumental in allowing buyers and sellers to trade more efficiently and facilitating the elimination of barriers between marketplaces. However, there are major challenges that persist with regard to e-commerce, including its intangible nature and its constantly evolving landscape.
International Economics Consulting Ltd. was contracted by the Commonwealth Secretariat to prepare a policymaker’s handbook from the perspectives of capacity-constrained countries, such as least-developed countries (LDCs), small states and Sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of the project was to help with the capacity development of Commonwealth small states, LDCs, and Sub-Saharan African states to ensure that they can participate effectively in global work on e-commerce, particularly in the context of the WTO work programme, as well as with discussions in other trade fora with a view to safeguarding and promoting their interests.

What We Found

Establishing an online presence is incredibly important for traders. The number of internet users has more than tripled over the past decade, increasing from USD 1 billion in 2005 to an estimated USD 3.2 billion at the end of. It is estimated that approximately 16% of B2C e-commerce transactions are cross-border in nature. It is further projected that B2C cross-border e-commerce transactions would reach nearly 30 per cent by 2020 while international sales would hit US$1 trillion. Cross-border B2B e-commerce is even larger, with a market worth between USD 1.8 trillion and USD 2 trillion in 2014. Despite greater uptake of internet and network connectivity globally, the digital adoption index remains relatively low for economies in the least Developed Countries, Sub-Saharan Africa and small state economies. They are much slower to adopt the new advances with regard to digital technology and therefore lag compared to the rest of the world. Increasingly, e-commerce is recognised as a driver of growth and development, creating new jobs, improving labour productivity, and reducing trade costs, among others.

Our Strategy and Impact

Developing countries have a strong interest in ensuring the effective development of the digital economy, including e-commerce. It holds the potential for better integrating landlocked countries and small island developing states into the global economy, allowing them to overcome the challenges associated with their landlockedness or remoteness and reduce distance to markets. Countries can thus leapfrog certain barriers associated with physical trade. Despite the enormous potential of e-commerce, it should be treated as the sole panacea for developing trade capabilities among the developing world. Developing countries need to ensure that their regulatory and business landscape is conducive to international trade and development. This could imply the adoption and implementation of a wide range of policy areas and regulations; and the implementation of measures that ensure an enabling infrastructure for smooth functioning of the internet, an appropriate telecommunication policy, a reliable power sector, a financial system allowing e-banking and e-payments, and a modern education system. These are important prerequisites for a thriving digital economy.

Our Core Solutions

Digital trade and e-commerce have opened new avenues for market expansion and trade diversification. International Economics Consulting provides advice and solutions on some of the latest emerging trends in e-commerce and digital trade such as paperless trading, e-payments, online consumer protection and data protection. We assist governments and businesses worldwide in creating an enabling environment for e-commerce and digital trade, to maximise economic growth and development.

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