RIA’s Shamira Ahmed at the WTO on digital trade governance for development from an African perspective

The WTO’s Public Forum 2021 entitled, “Trade Beyond COVID-19: Building Resilience” took place from 28 September to 1 October.

RIA’s senior economist was a panellist at the working session on “Digital trade governance for development: Implementation challenges and technical assistance needs”.

Informed by key findings from the World Bank Group’s flagship 2021 World Development Report entitled Data for Better Lives, this working session addressed the development dimensions of digital trade and the needs of low-and-middle-income countries for international support to build their capacity to engage in and benefit from e-commerce and the digital economy. This session discussed the development dimensions of digital governance before considering possible implementation challenges and the technical assistance support that may help realize the development opportunities associated with global e-commerce norms under discussion among WTO members.

Speaking about the challenges on the ground in Africa, Ahmed argued that African countries face several interrelated challenges with respect to digital uptake. These impact their ability to leverage data and respond to national and global challenges associated with the data driven economy.

Ahmed identified both supply side and demand side constraints that include unreliable electricity supplies as well as limited data and digital infrastructure. These limit access to quality and interoperability of digital data systems.

We also have weak education systems that impact human capacity to build relevant digital capabilities and to foster inclusive digital innovation and entrepreneurship that can actually create value from data, she said.

Ahmed also highlighted siloed development of economic policies and legislation. For example, in terms of facilitating affordable broadband  connections access to internet and internet-enabled mobile devices.

Ahmed called for comprehensive economic policies and legislation to ensure that there is regulated, trusted, safe, fair and interoperable digital ecosystems.

Watch her input in the video above.