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Skills development critical to Africa’s ecommercial future

One of the ways to address the challenges and risks that beset digital trade in Africa is to increase investment into talent and skills development.

This is according to Adewumi Adeshina of One Kiosk Africa who participated in the recently concluded 2020 African Union (AU) e-commerce conference.

The conference brought together start-ups, innovators, ecosystem support players from hubs and accelerators, as well as policy makers for a roundtable discussion on the future of digital trade in Africa.

Adeshina described the event as a step in the right direction. “The pandemic has already shown the potential of remote working and this would surely be globally embraced going forward at home and abroad. So, in summary, one way to curtail this risk would be to bridge the talent gaps by investing more in training youths across member states.”

Adeshina added that Africa’s future is digital, hence the need for member countries to work together to bridge these gaps and thereby ensure a smooth transition of talents and skills for adoption.

“… from old to new jobs and to meet demands for cross border employment which already exists today, but is set to accelerate and grow by next year as new trade policies are introduced.”

Ahead of the AfCFTA, which takes effect from January 2021, the AU has been working on a Situational Analysis on Digital Trade and Digital Economy as it seeks to deliver on e-commerce policies and create the enabling environment to facilitate the growth of digital trade in the continent.

According to the conference’s concept note, key among the challenges and risks facing digital trade in Africa are gaps in regulatory frameworks and in the current technological infrastructure.

There's also the fear of job losses due to automation; market concentration leading to reduced competition and monopoly; revenue loss by governments due to the ability for companies to circumvent financial regulations; and the risk of a structural gap in the fourth industrial revolution era.

Adeshina said making access to internet connectivity more affordable will also contribute to deepening digital adoption and would “greatly encourage digital trade across Africa and help us enjoy the dividends of the AfCFTA implementation.”

He said: “The next phase would be to implement and support the entrepreneurs/support players in implementing the takeaway. This in itself would take us away from talk to making digital trade a reality. There can also be incentives for member states who support and contribute effectively towards digital trade in their countries. This would encourage policy makers to implement (to the letter) the final report recommendations from the conference.”

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