Economy Technology

WTO tasks Africa on adopting digital technology for trade

To attain the objective of economic integration and sustainable development on the continent as enshrined in the Africa Agenda 2063 of ‘The Africa We Want’, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has harped on the need for adoption of digital technology for trade in Africa.

At the WTO Public Forum 2022 held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, the Lead Advisor, Dynamics Impact Advisory (DIA), Gbemisola Osadua, spoke on harnessing technology and digital innovation in order to advance Africa’s Trade and Sustainable Development Agenda during the working session.

In her remarks at the session, President of Borderless Trade Network (BTN), Dr. Olori Boye-Ajayi, specifically highlighted the peculiar challenges that women encounter while trading on the continent in relation to harnessing the potential of digital innovations.

She shared examples on the collaborative efforts of BTN with various agencies to support women and make trading and businesses easier for them by leveraging technology. She emphasised the need to create fair opportunities for women in trade, when it comes to access to digital tools.

Also speaking, the CEO of Supply Chain Africa (SCA), Adebayo Adeleke, made emphasis on Africa’s disjointed and fragmented economic and trade situation post-COVID.

He discussed how SCA, a consolidating platform, has been bringing to light everything that is right for supply chain systems in Africa as well as showcasing the stories of innovative Africans.

He also underlined the peculiarities of Africa and how these distinguish the continent’s operations and procurement systems.

On his part, Head of Trade Logistics Branch of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Jan Hoffmann, spoke on how technological advancement would be faster in the future than it is now.

He shared examples from current multilateral approaches to embracing digital innovation, such as the UNCTAD requirement, which mandates every country’s customs administration to publish their rules, duties and procedures.

The session also featured Chief of Staff of the WTO, Dr. Bright Okogu, who reiterated the need for an African approach that is beyond mere discussions about potential to take ambitious actions.

He pointed out the inalienable role of digital innovation and technology in Africa’s trade and development, adding that the private sectors and SMEs are the drivers of Africa’s economy and not the government.

The Professor of WTO Law and Practice, and a Senior Counsellor at the WTO, Prof. Gabrielle Marceau, in her response to a question from a participant at the session, explained the need to foster partnerships between the public and private sectors as a multi stakeholders approach to addressing the challenges of digital trade in Africa.

She cited an example from the approach of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in engaging the private sector when she assumed office as the Director General of the WTO to collaborate so as to facilitate trade for a speedy recovery from COVID-19 and other urgent challenges that the multilateral trading system was facing.

Other Panelists spoke on the importance of supply chain in driving trade and commerce, the need for capacity building for Africa MSMEs and the need to finance the actions that are needed for the continent to fully harness digital and technological innovations by young people to drive the African trade and economic development agenda.

Source: The Guardian