EU pledges to help Africa develop e-commerce

19 Apr 18

The European Union will use its own experience in creating digital networks to help Africa do the same and implement e-commerce, its digital economy and society commissioner Mariya Gabriel has said.

Speaking at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s e-commerce this week in Geneva, she said this was part of a shift in emphasis towards digital and away from the EU’s traditional aid programmes.

Gabriel said that increasing broadband penetration - only 16% in parts of the continent - was key to economic growth and poverty reduction.

The information technology sector contributes only 5% of Africa’s gross domestic product, a proportion the African Union aims to triple by 2040.

“Creating a single digital market was the EU’s response to the challenges posed by the digital transformation in our society and in our economies,” she said.

“Our expertise and our experience can be put to the benefit of development cooperation between the EU and Africa.”

She said giving aid for digital projects would mark a shift from the EU’s traditional focus on assisting energy, agriculture, education, health, transport and governance programmes, but noted digital took only €250m of the €30bn of EU development assistance.  

“Getting government services online improves their quality and reach and putting mobile phones in the hands of young entrepreneurs gives them a tool to create tailor-made solutions for local problems”, she said.

Amani Abou-Zeid African Union commissioner for infrastructure, energy, ICT and tourism said a priority was to ensure that new technologies brought about inclusive growth, helping to reduce inequalities and lower unemployment.  

“All technology can also result sometimes in joblessness, and we want to make sure this does not happen when we transform our economies,” Abou-Zeid said.

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