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Digital Trade Around the World and the EU Looks at Africa

The UK Chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) recently held a conference on digital trade which I attended. It was very interesting to note that across the EU, only 1% of all trade documents are digital. The ICC’s solution is public private partnership and greater alignment of efforts across government and industry. This will require international best practice to ensure that national frameworks and forums can align to ensure we collectively deliver digitalisation across the trade system and thus help drive a uniform, global approach to frictionless, paperless trading systems. In Africa the EFA has frequently called on the AfCFTA and the regional economic communities (RECs) to promote e-documentation and stop the requirement of customs at frontiers requiring reams of paper forms. The draft AfCFTA Digital Trade Protocol stresses the need for mutual recognition of e-documentation for intra-Africa trade. The ICC is pushing for a common standard to be used to ensure compatibility around the globe ( ).  EFA supports this initiative.

According to a new policy brief published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), trade in services is critical for improving the competitiveness of African economies, and improving trade in services with African countries could help the European Union diversify its supply chains, strengthen resilience and reduce dependencies on China and other Asian countries. A more active services trade between the EU and Africa would allow European multinationals to near-shore their production processes and diversify away from Asia-focused supply networks. Improved trade in services would also allow the EU to influence regulatory models across various sectors. Dear readers, please note that last point – what this implies is that the EU wants to push for its regulations to be the models for Africa. The issue should surely be – is that beneficial for Africa?

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Alastair Tempest

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