Regional business leaders and experts have called for harmonised Information Communication Technology (ICT) and e-commerce policies, saying this would help fast-track socio-economic development in East Africa.
Lilian Awinja, the East African Business Council (EABC) chief executive, noted that ICT is a key business enabler for sectors like trade, tourism, education and agriculture, finance and transport, among others. She added that many components of the ICT sector are cross-cutting and cross-border, hence the need for a harmonised legal and regulatory framework. The official added that the region must improve its e-commerce systems to boost trade and related services, among others.
“The EAC region needs improved cross-border ICT infrastructure development to facilitate interoperability, and increased connectivity and digitalisation of government processes to reduce transaction cost of operations and ensure efficient and quality public services delivery,” said the EABC chief executive last week in a statement. Awinja was speaking ahead of the second East African Business and Entrepreneurship Conference and Exhibition, scheduled for November 14 to 16 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. EABC is the apex advocacy body of business associations of the private sector and corporate firms from East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Lack of regional financial interoperability platform
Robert Ford, the Northern Corridor Technology Alliance chief coordinator, said different ICT laws have hampered growth of regional e-commerce sector as they affect transactions. He said, without uniform policies, growth of services like mobile money and other money transfer services is limited due to lack of a regional financial interoperability platform.
“So, we need to harmonise our policies to boost financial interoperability across the region, especially on mobile money,” Ford told The New Times on Friday. Ford rooted for an EABC policy framework “under which harmonisation of policies on technology can be realised”.
The official is one of the industry experts that are expected to lead deliberations on the current policies and missing policy links in the region’s ICT and e-commerce sector.
Improving cyber security
Business operators in the region are gaining from innovations related to the ICT and e-commerce sector and the Nairobi-based Prox Chess House, a company that provides cutting-edge chess equipment and services across the region, is one of the beneficiaries.
Titus Kirega, a manager at Prox Chess House, told The New Times that e-commerce has eased transactions, improved business efficiency, making it cost-effective.
“I have never met most of my clients because all transactions are online. Operating costs are greatly reduced when using ICT. E-payments are the way to go. This makes it easier to transact with the regional market of 150 million people compared to other payment methods, thus improving business growth,” Kirega said.
He, however, called for tightening of online security to deter cyber-crime in the EAC region.
The forthcoming conference in Dar will discuss ICT and e-commerce, among other issues, and will attract high-level government officials, CEOs and business leaders from the partner states. The conference will showcase the latest research and development and innovations in ICT, promote trade-links, network interoperability and e-market in a bid to increase market access to enhance regional economic growth and integration.
Key ICT devts in region
The EABC acknowledges that one of the biggest ICT achievements and developments in the region is the world’s first national drone delivery system that is used to deliver blood to patients in remote areas of Rwanda. Also, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan implemented the One Network Area to reduce telecom costs locally and while roaming across the Northern Corridor.
The regional business body notes that technological innovations related to custom operations such as electronic passports, tax collection, bonds, forms, cargo tracking systems, and security checks can support the bloc’s economic growth through enhancing the ease of doing business by reducing costs, time, bureaucracy and increase security.
“Technological innovations can fast-track movement of goods in the East Africa region,” said Awinja.
Mobile banking, mobile money transfer, e-transactions and other financial innovations that analyse business inputs, payments and stocks are boosting financial inclusion in the region, experts say. EABC believes that ICT can provide adequate, up-to-date and reliable market intelligence for business and economic growth.
“The region also needs to support research and development, and monitor the developments in ICT in order to showcase the potential of high-tech innovations to the economy,” said Awinja.