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2024 is nearly upon us!

Wishing all our readers a restful Festive Season and Successful 2024! EFSA and EFA are closing their doors until the first week of 2024.

Looking back 2023 has been a very active year both at the pan-African and South African levels. Early in the year the AfCFTA held its first Stakeholders conference, hosted in Cape Town,  and 3 AfCFTA protocols were adopted (Investment, IP and Competition), although the adoption of the digital trade protocol will be held over until next year (see below). EFSA was appointed by BUSA as its digital trade expert in Nedlac. While EFA attended the African Union drafting meeting for its Ecommerce Strategy. BRICS held its annual conference in SA – and agreed to an influx of new members. The EU published its proposals for a new Customs Code, doing away with the de minimis rule – EFA protested strongly. The US/Africa AGOA summit was held in SA a couple of months later. And internationally, as we reported last month, moves are ahead to develop ways to regulate AI (see below). UNCTAD moved its Ecommerce Week to December and renamed it the “eWeek”. EFA co-hosted 3 sessions which we report on below.

Meanwhile in SA, the Post Office (SAPO) saw off bankruptcy but is in a desperate state. The Competition Commission published its long-awaited Online Intermediation Platforms Market Inquiry (OIPMI) and dug the knives in further by making ecommerce a special case for abuses of Buyers Power.  The Department of Communications and Digital Technology (DCDT) revised its Draft National Policy on Data and Cloud (first published in 2021), the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition hosted negotiations by SADC on services, which included a visit to Takealot. The DTIC also held a meeting on the growth of services industries. And then there were the ecommerce conferences to which EFSA contributed. EFSA commented on the application (SOPS) of the Cybercrimes Act. We also contributed to the FSCA ECA annual report to the finance minister. Finally, the Payments association (PASA) remains as the COFI Bill has not yet been adopted, however, the plans to create a Payments Industry Body (PIB) have been approved by SARB.

Next year – election year in SA – will see more activities from AfCFTA, including the agreements on Financial Services and the Regulatory Framework on the Communication Sector.  The AU’s Ecommerce Strategy will be adopted, and maybe we will see an update to the SADC ecommerce strategy (adopted in the early 2010s), as well as continuation on the removal of barriers to cross-border services within the region. Cross-border payments will continue to be an area of special interest. The WTO’s moratorium on customs duties for electronic transmissions comes up for renewal in February – will SA vote against continuing the agreement and what would then happen?

We can expect a lively debate on the DCDT’s Data and Cloud policy which is floating several regulatory ideas. SAPO’s case to apply its rights to the last mile seems ever less likely to be achieved in its court case against PostNet. PIB may at last be set up once the COFI Bill is adopted (but that is most unlikely before the elections) – and then, what about the elections – more of the same? A swerve to the left? Or to the right? Yet more power outages (load shedding)?

The Boards and members of both EFSA and EFA have been great – we look forward to your continued support in 2023.  We’re working on a relaunch of the Ecommerce in SA textbook and on a second training module with Services SETA. And there’s the trustmark….  2024 promised to be fun!

Meanwhile, dear readers, have a restful Festive Season and every success in the New Year. See you then.

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Alastair Tempest

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