ECA organize a series of events on Africa’s digital transformation in Geneva - 2018 WTO Public Forum

Geneva, 5 October 2018 - The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) co-organized a number of events at the 2018 WTO Public Forum, which took place 2-4 October at the WTO headquarters in Geneva. The Forum provided a space for policy makers, trade negotiators, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia from across the world, to come together to discuss sustainable trade, technology-enabled trade and a more inclusive trading system.

In collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), ATPC organized an event on “Africa Goes Digital: Leaving No One Behind”. The Panel was moderated by Ms. Nadira Bayat, Programme Director of Global Economic Governance (GEG) Africa, and the panel consisted of Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of ATPC; Ms. Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division at OHCHR; and Ms. Ololade Shyllon, Project Manager for Democracy and Transparency at the University of Pretoria. Mr. Luke highlighted that e-commerce is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Africa, both among the WTO Africa Group, the AUC and at the national level, and identified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a critical platform for AU Member States to establish institutional arrangements for cooperation on the digital economy. The other panelists spoke to the crucial human rights implications of digital trade, underlining the need to ensure that Africa’s digital transformation is consistent with inclusion, transparency and people-centred governance.

The Centre also co-organized an event on “How to harness the industrialization opportunities of the AfCFTA in the digital age” with ECA’s Dakar-based training arm, the UN African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP). In her moderation, IDEP’s Director Ms. Karima Bounemra, highlighted that the AfCFTA offers a crucial vehicle for delivering on Africa’s industrialization objectives, but at the same time, emphasized that for the AfCFTA to fulfill this goal, African policymakers will need to adjust their strategies in line with recent digital developments. The panel consisted of Mr. David Luke; H.E. Ajay Bramdeo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the African Union; H.E. Leopold Ismael Samba, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the WTO; and Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the WTO’s Enhanced Integrated Framework. Panelists spoke to both the challenges and opportunities the digital age presents for Africa’s industrialization and identified the need for comprehensive digital industrial strategies that encompass skills development, infrastructure and financing, at both the national and regional level.

The ATPC team participated in a series of trade and gender events and meetings at the WTO. In particular, Mr. Luke delivered an intervention at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) event on “Data and statistics for gender-responsive trade policy”, which highlighted a lack of gender-disaggregated data as a major hindrance to incorporating gender into trade policy making, both in Africa but also globally. In addition, the team contributed to the International Trade Centre (ITC) meeting on the development of its new SheTrades Outlook. The Outlook is expected to provide an innovative tool that will enable stakeholders to assess, monitor and improve the extent to which country-level trade policies and business environments support women participation in international trade. Moving forward, ATPC will work closely with the ITC and partners to ensure that the specific African dimensions are adequately reflected in the Outlook.

On the sidelines of the WTO Public Forum, the ATPC and IDEP teams met with Ms. Bridget Chilala, Director at the WTO’s Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation. ECA and the WTO identified avenues for strengthening collaboration moving forward, in light of the significant overlap and synergies between the training and capacity building activities undertaken by the two organizations. IDEP Director, Ms. Karima Bounemra, also met with Ms. Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, to discuss areas of joint interest and possible collaboration on capacity development issues in Africa.

On 4-5 October, ATPC with the close and valued partnership of OHCHR and FES, organized an Authors’ Workshop on “Digital Trade in Africa: Implications for Inclusion and Human Rights”. The purpose of the workshop was to review and discuss the drafts chapters of the organizations’ upcoming joint edited publication on digital trade and human rights. The chapters build upon the various discussions, stories and experiences shared during the previous Digital Trade and Human Rights Conference which ATPC co-organized with its partners in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia earlier this year. The joint edited publication which will be launched in the first quarter of 2019, will identify options for African countries to harness digital opportunities and address digital challenges in a way that is consistent with the attainment of human rights.