Use E-commerce as a vehicle for cross-border trade – GIZ urges SMEs


With businesses constantly seeking expanded markets and looking for opportunities beyond their home countries, business leaders of small-scale enterprises (SMEs) and industry practitioners have been urged to use electronic commerce (E-commerce) as a vehicle for cross-border trade as they are equipped with tools to overcome militating factors.

According to the key stakeholders, E-commerce – which is the act of buying and selling goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data over an electronic network, primarily the Internet, either as a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business – has the potential to expand even SMEs to multinational businesses with the capacity and collaboration, leveraging on Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Leaders in government, international development partners, ecosystem enablers, and cybersecurity experts gathered at the ‘National E-Commerce Forum and Exhibition,’ organised by the German Cooperation Deutsche Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Ghana and the Pan-African E-Commerce Initiative (PeCI), deliberated and proffered solutions to issues affecting the development of the e-commerce sector.

They emphasised that the exponential growth in e-commerce since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19 is not just a catalyst for economic development, but can be a game-changer for businesses who are ready to pursue cross-border trade extensively.

Senior National Coordinator, Digital Transformation Centre, GIZ, Emmanuel Mumuni, emphasised that Ghana has been recognised as the fastest-growing mobile money market in Africa over the past five years, and this growing trend of mobile money penetration has been a catalyst for the booming e-commerce industry in the country, becoming the mainstay for many small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana; but the capacity-building is needed to go beyond the borders.

“E-Commerce is one sector that has seen massive growth with the advent of COVID-19; and even though it is still growing, there are a lot of challenges, especially to the SMEs trying to participate in E-commerce. And we believe that if we are able to take away these bottlenecks, they will have faster tract to profitability, leading to economic development and employment.

“We have identified that E-commerce is all about the skills to practise, and even though there are a lot of SMEs trying E-commerce, they lack the skills to excel so we are building the capacity of SMEs in that area and we are also engaging government to put in place proper policies that are favourable to SMEs growth and development,” he said.

He added further that the growth seen in the E-commerce space so far is just a scratch on the surface as there are bigger opportunities in the global space that businesses must be equipped to harness.

Head of Technical Support, National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Solomon Kofi Richardson, indicated the government is keen on creating the enabling ecosystem for E-commerce to serve as a catalyst for cross-border trade, and as such, has been investing in infrastructure projects which is one of the key requirements for e-commerce to operate.

“E-commerce cuts across a number of areas; first is the connectivity infrastructure, digital devices, e-payment platforms and e-commerce services, regulation and trade, among others. So, we need one institution to try and bring all these parts together because if the service providers who are only interested in making profits are not regulated, there will be inefficiency and abuse in the ecosystem.

“It is important to collaborate and bring together all stakeholders providing financial literacy, payment platforms, traders, and service providers as well as regulation and standardisation to ensure all citizens get access,” he said.

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