The electronic buying and selling of products online has gained increased importance in the last decade. Even more so with the pandemic crisis leading people globally to buy even more online. Hence, e-commerce is a crucial driver for economic growth worldwide. It is borderless as many products are ordered in other countries and shipped across borders. 

In East Africa, there is huge potential for increase e-commerce since only a fraction of products is bought online compared to Europe or North America. Therefore, cross-border e-commerce is a cornerstone for the EAC to upscale its economic opportunities and deepen integration. E-commerce is based on modern technologies such as mobile trading, electronic funds transfer, internet marketing, online transaction processing and supply chain management for B2B. It allows companies to provide new products and services to a larger number of digitally-connected customers regionally and worldwide. Many stakeholders and suppliers must be connected to coordinate all processes in place. 

Therefore, the EAC is developing a regional e-commerce strategy with the support of EAC-GIZ under the project “Pan-African e-Commerce Initiative – Boosting African Digital Trade in Africa (PeCI)”. The PeCI is a continental programme to improve the ecosystem for companies to participate in cross-border e-commerce. Framework conditions such as the harmonisation of regulations are crucial for businesses to participate in cross-border e-trade. In the long run, PeCI contributes to deepen the economic integration of East Africa, increasing trade within and outside the EAC. 

Currently, the EAC Secretariat is undertaking an assessment of existing stakeholders both in the private and the public sector, their engagement, and relevant systems and institutions available in the region. This study also maps legal and regulatory environments and comes up with recommendations for policy making. As such, it will inform the further development of the EAC e-commerce strategy. The EAC-GIZ SEAMPEC team together with the PeCI team triggered this process jointly with the EAC’s Trade Department in an inception meeting end of September 2020. Biweekly meetings will follow to ultimately implement the EAC-Council Directive on e-commerce which means submission of the regional programme on e-commerce to the Council of Ministers. This will not only harmonise approaches to regional e-trade – it will also spur the development of this crucial opportunity for more trade across borders in the six EAC-Partner States. 

The support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) is in line with the BMZ’s Marshall Plan with Africa, the Aid for Trade Strategy, the Sector Strategy for Private Sector Development, the Digitalisation Strategy, and the ‘Digital Africa’ Initiative.

Photo:  ©GIZ_Mali Lazell