Digitise or die, says AfCFTA bss

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Harare - The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a legal framework to govern e-commerce and digital trade in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which comes into operation in January 2021.

The global pandemic has been particularly harsh on the region’s already fragile economies with economic output plummeting because of strict public health regulations designed to control the spread of the virus.

According to the Africa Development Bank, real GDP on the continent is projected to contract by as much as 3,4 percent in 2020, down from the 5,6 percent growth projection made in January 2020 before COVID-19 started taking its toll.

AfCFTA Secretary-General Mr Wamkele Mene told a recent virtual meeting hosted by the South Africa-based Trade Law Centre that Africa needed to quickly find ways of doing business digitally.

“We’ve got to develop a very clear and compelling strategy for how we can ensure that our trade under (the AfCFTA) agreement is more efficient, more dynamic and certainly more affordable,” Mr Mene said. “We ignore digitisation at our own peril”. 

Mr Mene said any talks on digital trade should include measures to harmonise and speed up custom-clearance procedures between countries. 

The 54 of the 55 African Union member states that have signed up to the AfCFTA are understood to be in the process of establishing taxation of e-commerce platforms.

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