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COM2021: African countries need to leverage AfCFTA to drive digital trade

18 March, 2021
COM2021: African countries need to leverage AfCFTA to drive digital trade

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021 (ECA) - The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is making significant progress in supporting African countries to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) to drive digital trade on the continent.

This was said Thursday by Daya Bragante, Head of the Sub-Regional Initiatives Cluster in the ECA’s East Africa Sub-Regional Office (SRO-EA), at the ongoing 39th ECA Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

Her presentation focused on the implementation of resolutions of the 52nd session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and the 2020 extraordinary meeting of the Bureau of the Economic Commission for Africa.

Ms. Bragante noted that the increasing impact of digitization revealed that there was an urgent need to continue developing capacity of member States so their economies can harness digital trade to encourage sector-wide economic development.

She said with the AfCFTA now operational, there was scope to pursue regional strategies to develop Africa's digital economy.

“ECA has been supporting the African Union Commission in the development of a digital strategy for Africa. The continental digital transformation strategy is designed to harness the benefits of digitalization and support the implementation of digital trade, digital identity and digital economy programmes in support of the AfCFTA,” Ms. Bragante said.

She said the ECA was working on establishing the Digital Earth Africa programme, intended to deliver an exceptional fit-for-purpose platform that can translate over 50 years of Earth observation satellite imagery into information and insights on changes on land and sea in Africa.

Digital Earth Africa will build on the Data Cube technology to deliver a unique continental-scale structure and tools that democratize the capacity to process and analyse satellite data into ready-to-use insights about the continent’s environmental conditions, including soil and coastal erosion, agriculture, forest and desert monitoring, water management, and changes to human settlements, disaster risk management and other processes.

Ms. Bragante said the Centre of Excellence for Digital Identity, Trade and Economy, established in 2018, was providing the necessary support to Member States to use digitalization as a catalyst for inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa.

“In particular, the Centre will promote the harmonization of standards across member States, support the development of regulation to safeguard security and promotion of investments in infrastructure, and develop capacity and skills of key stakeholders, including the private sector, so they can embrace opportunities for innovation and job creation that digitalization presents,” she said.

In addition, the Centre will seek to backstop support provided by ECA for the creation of a digital common market under the AfCFTA so countries can take advantage of opportunities and benefits associated with the digital economy in a continent-wide market.

As one of its key deliverables, the Centre focuses on the development of strategic and legal frameworks for a harmonized legal identity that is based on a strong civil registration system and enabled by digitalization.

The Conference with the theme, Africa’s sustainable industrialisation and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID-19, is being attended by technical experts from across Africa.


Issued by:

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

PO Box 3001

Addis Ababa


Tel: +251 11 551 5826