Ecom@Africa makes new strides

17.06.2019 - Launched in 2016, Ecom@Africa aims to ensure the development of e-commerce through the African postal network, giving micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) better access to local and international markets by simplifying import and export procedures.

The project has been seen as a lifeline for African Posts as they struggle to build up their business given the decline in letter-mail and traditional postal services.

Two countries – Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia – recently joined the initiative, signing formal agreements in late 2018 to launch e-commerce hubs to serve their respective regions and Tunisia having just laid the foundation of its Ecom@Africa fulfilment hub in March 2019.

Speaking during the Fifth Extraordinary Session of the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in July 2018, UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein called the UPU project a key enabler of e-commerce, which allows African citizens and businesses to participate in national, regional, and global economies. 

“Barriers to e-commerce in Africa are many and varied. We need one platform that can address all the challenges comprehensively. Ecom@Africa powered by the Post is the solution,” he said.  

Foundations laid

Tunisia was the first country to come on board the initiative, hosting an Ecom@Africa onsite assessment in March 2017 and signing its cooperation agreement with the UPU in July 2017. It is now in the midst of implementing its roadmap of 15 activities, including the installation of UPU’s Customs Declaration System (CDS) and the upgrade of Tunisia Post’s IT tools. It is also the first Post to use the UPU’s new e-commerce application-programming interface allowing postal operators and their commercial partners to automate orders, payments, shipments, customs clearance, and deliveries.

It is also the first to begin construction on its Ecom@Africa hub. The UPU Director General attended a ceremony at Tunis-Carthage International Airport in March 2019 where he helped lay the first part of the fulfilment centre’s foundation.

Firm commitment

Ethiopia is the latest to join the initiative, having signed a cooperation agreement in December to construct a hub for East Africa.

Commenting on this important milestone in the development of the country, Mr. Hussein said the agreement confirmed the Ethiopian government’s “commitment to launch Ecom@Africa, a single window platform for domestic and international e-commerce trade.”

In February 2019, UPU experts assessed five main areas of the project during their mission to Addis Ababa: regulatory and investment conditions, the local postal network and its supply chain partners, the future hub, its virtual marketplace, and APIs. The team held meetings with Ethiopian Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria, Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian Postal Service, the Ethiopian Customs authority, and the national investment committee to discuss next steps. UPU experts made recommendations on policies that the government would have to develop and transport and delivery improvements that must be made as a precursor to establishing the hub. As the next step, the government will create a national addressing system.

The government intends to construct a modern fulfilment centre very close to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The centre will focus on domestic e-commerce, transit, and international outbound mail flows.

Working on policy

The UPU also signed an Ecom@Africa cooperation agreement with Côte d’Ivoire late last year, during the UPU Second Extraordinary Congress in Addis Ababa. Since then, the country launched the project during a December 2018 ceremony attended by UPU Deputy Director General Pascal Clivaz, Ivoirian Minister for Digital Economy and Post Claude Isaac Dé, La Poste (Côte d’Ivoire) CEO Isaac Gnamba Yao, partner institutions and UPU experts.

UPU experts have since conducted an onsite assessment of the Post’s operational readiness for e-commerce and made several recommendations on necessary policy development and postal IT infrastructure investments to be made. The local government has already found two possible locations for the country’s future hub.

The UPU is currently working with four other African countries to negotiate Ecom@Africa agreements: Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa.

 

This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of UPU’s Union Postale magazine. Subscribe now to be the first to receive content like this.

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  1. Dirk at 19.01.2016
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