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ECA and GSMA Call on Central Africa to Leverage Mobile Connectivity for E-Commerce

15/07/2021

New Policies Can Ignite Online Trade, Economic Growth and Inclusion

15 July 2021, London: The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the GSMA today called on Central Africa's 11 governments to adopt policies to accelerate e-commerce, including better access to digital services and public-private collaboration.

Mobile internet use in Central Africa more than doubled in the past decade to 42% at the end of 2019. Women and entrepreneurs increasingly use e-commerce platforms to grow their businesses, according to the joint GSMA-ECA report titled Enabling e-commerce in Central Africa: the role of mobile services and policy implications . The report makes the potential for economic development and social inclusion clear.

E-commerce is growing quickly in Central Africa and mobile connectivity and payments are key to gaining momentum. By the end of 2020, there were 16 live mobile money services in ECCAS[1], serving nearly 50 million registered accounts.

The report shows that while the retail e-commerce landscape is dominated by global players, such as Amazon, eBay and Alibaba, domestic and regional players are leveraging local knowledge to compete. Jumia, is an example of this and is Africa's largest e-commerce company with operations in 11 countries across the continent.

Insights from the report outline how social commerce, the use of social networks for e-commerce, is also gaining traction. Facebook's 14 million users in the sub-region make an attractive marketplace and the preferred platform for many e-commerce entrepreneurs.

Despite this progress, all 11 countries in Central Africa are falling behind when compared to their peers. The infrastructure, investment and skills necessary to fuel online shopping rank in the bottom third of the UN Conference on Trade and Development's Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index of 152 countries.

The report makes clear that mobile telecom operators are a vital part of the solution. They provide connectivity for online activities, including e-commerce, enable digital payments and, support e-commerce by way of APIs and sales agents to address challenges in the sector.

Central Africa is budding with economic potential and e-commerce can accelerate that growth, said Angela Wamola, the GSMA's Head of Sub Sahara Africa. The GSMA is proud to partner with the ECA on this report bringing our knowledge of how digital technologies can propel sustainable development to the work. We hope it will inspire action from policymakers and stakeholders in the region.

In Central Africa, as many as 264 e-commerce start-ups operate in at least 23 countries. The employment potential is significant with online marketplaces are set to generate 3 million jobs by 2025.

The region can progress quickly if governments enact policies to accelerate digital and e-commerce services, specifically:

Enhance digital and financial inclusion

Take the right approach to data regulation

Address key challenges in the business environment

Leverage stakeholder collaboration

Mobile network operators must play a critical role to accelerate digital inclusion, economic diversification and sustainable development, said Antonio Pedro, Director of ECA's Sub-regional Office for Central Africa. If governments act now, Central Africa can be more competitive and collaborative for the benefit and inclusion of all citizens.

Please click to download the report here: Enabling e-commerce in Central Africa: the role of mobile services and policy implications

-ENDS-

About GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Africa, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the M360 Series of regional conferences. For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

About ECA

ECA's current mandate is to promote economic and social development of its member States by delivering cutting-edge ideas and prompting action for an empowered and transformed Africa; informed by the 2030 Agenda and African Union's Agenda 2063. The Commission's special focus in Central Africa is to foster economic diversification and structural transformation for inclusive and sustainable development. To achieve this, ECA helps countries and regional economic communities (RECs) in the sub-region formulate and implement relevant policies and strategies with the view to sustainably expanding the contribution of the manufacturing and high-value service sectors to GDP and increasing the share of tradeable and manufactured goods in total exports; deepening regional value chains; and improving the competitiveness and productivity of local economies.

Media contacts:

GSMA Press Office:

pressoffice@gsma.com

For ECA:

Abel Akara Ticha, Communication Officer

Tel: +237 222504348

E-mail: akara@un.org

[1] Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe

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