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Featured image: UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade-Smith (Supplied)

Commonwealth initiative to explore barriers to digital trade

The Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Agenda will explore barriers to digital trade and connectivity for business and consumers across the Commonwealth, says UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade-Smith.

The initiative — which will be co-led by the UK and SA governments — was announced last Tuesday (5 March) during Africa Tech Week in Cape Town.

The initiative aims to explore how barriers to digital trade can be removed and how digital connectivity for businesses and consumers across the Commonwealth can be increased.

In a statement the British High Commission in South Africa said the initiative is part of an aim to boost annual trade between Commonwealth countries to $2-trillion by 2030.

The first meeting of the Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Agenda will take place on 19 and 20 March in Durban

Put into perspective, trade among the group’s members in 2016 stood at $560-billion.

Wade-Smith (pictured above) last week told Ventureburn that the initiative will work through a series of knowledge-sharing workshops that will facilitate an exchange of experiences, views and best practices on digital connectivity between countries from all region of the Commonwealth.

“During discussions, we will share lessons on how countries can create the enabling conditions for the development of strong digital ecosystems that support businesses to grow, including startups and small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs),” she said.

She said the aim is to announce the outcomes of this work at the next Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting in 2020, with a view to upscaling activity from 2020-2030. Wade-Smith added that policymakers, regulators and implementers will all be invited to take part in the conversations.

First meeting set for Durban

The first meeting of the Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Agenda is set to take place on 19 and 20 March in Durban.

Wade-Smith explained that the Durban meeting will seek to unpack the digital transformation process and understand the key opportunities, challenges and priorities for Commonwealth countries. This, she said, will include how countries can leverage the digital transformation process to address the digital divide.

Commenting on the initiative, South Africa’s Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies said in a joint statement last Tuesday (5 March) that the SA government embraces the “undeniable benefits” and new opportunities brought about by advances in ICTs, especially in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Davies added that the government was cognisant of the “significant potential” and “disruptive effects” of the digital revolution, particularly in “least developed countries”.

“Effective policies are required to bridge the digital divide, including through supporting people to learn and by adopting new technologies and ensuring effective mechanisms for transfer of relevant technologies,” he said.

Featured image: UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade-Smith (Supplied)

Author Bio

Daniel Mpala
Daniel's focus is on the African tech startup ecosytem. Besides that, he is passionate about online security, privacy and international affairs. He studied International Relations and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. More

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