Central Africa is the area of the continent with the lowest intra-community trade volume, though it may rapidly increase it by using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This was reiterated in presentations during day one of an Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on using Information and Communication Technologies to promote Intra-regional trade in Central Africa, organised in Cameroon’s economic capital by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA’s Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa).
Before declaring open the two-day meeting, the Representative of Cameroon’s Ministry of Commerce – Ms. Temfomo Adidja – argued that “digital technology is a lever for strengthening the efficiency of all other sectors of the economy.” She cited the example of mobile telephony, which has orchestrated the use of new in areas such as financial and insurance services, as well as in access to banking services. She however added that there are difficulties connected with “electronic payment systems that are not yet put into great use; the absence of urban address systems that complicates the forwarding of products to consumers; the legal validity of electronic signatures and contracts; limited awareness about digital technology; the reticence of customers in providing online information about their credit accounts; and the still mediocre quality of internet access in some of our cities”.
On his part, the Director of the Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa of the ECA – Mr. Emile Ahohe – said studies conducted by the ECA on the implementation of a continental free trade area show that “efforts to improve trade infrastructure and customs procedures as well as reduce transit costs and other trade costs could generate a 52 per cent increase in the volume of intra-African trade by 2022.” Improved access to ICT services will therefore not only close infrastructure gaps, but also reduce intra-regional trade costs in Central Africa.
More than 70 experts from Central African States, the African Union Commission, the Secretariat General of ECCAS, the CEMAC Commission and UN specialised agencies are participating in the brainstorming that will culminate in the adoption of an ECA report on using ICTs to promote intra-regional trade in Central Africa. The said report shall then be widely circulated to policy-makers of the sub-region to serve as a reference framework for supporting national and sub-regional trade integration efforts.