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E-commerce and digital trade across Africa has been buoyed by the Covid-19 pandemic and full or partial lockdowns across a number of countries.

However, as a market it still remains stymied by weaknesses in the continent’s digital economy. Persistent issues such as high internet costs, weaknesses in postal services, the limited access to digital payment methods and cross-border trade capacities have all affected the effectiveness of e-commerce projects.

The AfCFTA aims to build e-commerce capacities across the continent, with the e-commerce protocol being fast tracked for negotiations.

According to the joint Organisation for Economic Co=operation and Development (OECD), World Trade organisation (WTO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) handbook, Handbook for Digital Trade, digital trade covers digitally ordered by physically delivered products and digitally ordered and digitally delivered products.

Provisions in the AfCFTA on trade facilitation will reduce friction for physically delivered products cross-border, boosting intra-African trade in the process.

The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030), set out by the AU, seeks to reduce the other impediments to this growing market.

Overall objective:

  • To harness digital technologies and innovation to transform African societies and economies to promote Africa's integration, generate inclusive economic growth, stimulate job creation, break the digital divide, and eradicate poverty for the continent’s socio-economic development and ensure Africa’s ownership of modern tools of digital management.

This strategy has several specific objects to assist with this and support AfCFTA:

  • build a secured Digital Single Market in Africa by 2030 where free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and engage in online activities in line with Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

  • by 2030 all our people should be digitally empowered and able to access safely and securely to at least (6 mb/s) all the time where ever they live in the continent at an affordable price of no more than (1cts usd per mb) through a smart device manufactured in the continent at the price of no more than (100 usd) to benefit from all basic e-services and content of which at least 30% is developed and hosted in Africa;

  • create a harmonized environment necessary to guarantee investment and financing by setting up a digital sovereignty fund in order to close the digital infrastructure gap and achieve an accessible, affordable and secure broadband, across demography, gender, and geography;

  • harmonize policies, legislations and regulations and establish and improve digital networks and services with a view to strengthening intra-Africa trade, intra-investment and capital flows and the socio-economic integration of the continent, while maintaining a relational balance with other continents in the context of networked economies (Digital economy, collaborative economy);

  • implement laws, policies and regulations required to stimulate and accelerate digital transformation for national, regional and continental development;

  • enable the coherence of existing and future digital policies and strategies at regional and national levels and mobilize effective cooperation between institutions;

  • entry into force of the African Union convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection by 2020 and for all Members States to adopt a complete set of legislation covering eTransactions, Personal Data Protection and Privacy, Cybercrime and Consumer Protection;

  • promote open standards and interoperability for cross-border trust framework, personal data protection and privacy;

  • create awareness and counterbalance issues of Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection and Privacy;

  • promote the management and use of Country Codes Top Level Domains as they are critical national resources whilst ensuring that technical and administrative operations are at international standards to foster trust and use of African Domain Names in order to bring financial, economic and sociocultural benefits to Africa;

  • build inclusive digital skills and human capacity across the digital sciences, judiciary, and education, both technical and vocational, to lead and power digital transformation including coding, programming, analysis, security, block chain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology policy & regulation;

  • offer a massive online e-skills development program to provide basic knowledge and skills in security and privacy in digital environment to 100 million Africans a year by 2021 and 300 million per year by 2025. "

  • foster the policies that create an enabling environment for productive digital trade and digital payment systems to advance opportunities for digital work, fair competition for digital businesses, and contribute to an advantageous position of Africa in the global digital economy;

  • support the Agenda 2063 flagship Pan-African “E” programme through providing policies and strategies that lead to transformative e-applications and services thereby making the digital revolution the basis for service delivery and ultimately transform Africa into a Digital Society. Language barriers and time zones for e-learning and telepresence component of the Pan-African e-Network to be removed;

  • build a vibrant sector approach to digitalization of the agriculture, health and education sectors;

  • 99.9% of people in Africa to have a digital legal identity as part of a civil registration process by 2030;

  • to make African citizens, enlightened and responsible e-citizens.

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