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Africa urges support for improved regulation of e-commerce

By , ITWeb
Africa , 25 Apr 2016

Africa urges support for improved regulation of e-commerce

Africa supports the need for a global framework to protect privacy and foster international trade through e-commerce, particularly in developing countries as the online form of trade grows, says ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Commission rep at the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) e-commerce week held this month in Geneva.

The Acting Director, Telecommunication and Regulatory Reforms at ECOWAS, Raphael Koffi said: "Regulation at present is a prerequisite now, particularly in developing countries in order to develop, support and maintain the rate of growth of ecommerce. Therefore we need to reconcile political vision and economic interests of states ... because we can't stop ecommerce now. It is impossible."

According to Koffi ECOWAS has become a broad community for trade with over 300 million people and a growth rate of about 23%, and growing even faster with mobile internet.

He noted that developing countries have a significant opportunity to develop e-commerce because of the number of devices and equipment at their disposal, as well as legal text in place that is in line with the African Union convention on data protection and cybersecurity to develop e-commerce.

However, Koffi stressed that since e-commerce is now a global phenomenon and all online transactions require the sharing of information, there is a need for personal information to be secured at a global level. This, he says, is necessary to guarantee the safety of users so as not to lead to a breakdown in trust and impact the internet, which is essential to the development of e-commerce.

"On the international level," Koffi said, "it is essential that a compromise be struck in order to adapt our national legislations... If you have to share data from West Africa with companies, for example, in the United States, there has to be interoperability of legislations. If not, we will not be able to protect the data of our citizens when it goes out to another country on another continent."

He drew attention to a key problem at finding consensus across the board at the implementation phase of the regulatory framework, but urged global policymakers to fully consider the merits of making an investment and protecting data.

In a report released at the event, Data Protection Regulations and International Data Flows: Implications for Trade and Development, UNCTAD says that coherent and compatible data protection regimes will be ever-more important in the face of new technologies such as cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things.

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