By Gary Hatigeva
THE Solomon Islands government together with its stakeholders from both, the private and public sector have yesterday launched what has been described as the much awaited E-Trade Readiness Assessment report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
With seven policy areas, the report highlights e-commerce readiness assessment and strategy formulation, ICT infrastructure and services, trade logistics and facilitation, payment systems, legal and regulatory framework, e-commerce skills development, and access to financing, as some of the key findings under the e-trade for all system.
In officially launching the report, Mbaye Ndiaye of Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) highlighted the importance of the report and the significance of e-commerce to Solomon Islands, which he felt a system that has always been practiced by the private sector, but in a smaller scale.
He said Solomon Islands can fully adapt the system if those responsible ensure that government stakeholders are involved in all its processes and more is taken out to the mass population in the provinces.
The call was also shared by other speakers, who believed the system has the potential to strengthen the vast collection of cultures, languages and geographical differences.
They also believed that with a developed and effective ICT environment, it can strengthen the bonds, and overcome whatever obstacles that Solomon’s geography and other factors pose, which should also help the country to become a genuine player in the global value chain.
Acting PS and Trade Commissioner for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Joseph Ma’ahanua, who was also guest speaker, pointed out that by identifying the gaps and opportunities in the country’s ICT structure and working together towards developing the system.
“This will ensure that we are able to effectively participate in the world economy. It will help us to develop the many economically viable industries we have, including tourism, agriculture, and fisheries, to name a few, and take advantage of the opportunities they pose for our country’s economic and social prosperity,” the Acting Permanent Secretary explained.
He added that a developed e-commerce environment in Solomon Islands will have spill over effects on the trade, finance, manufacturing, and services sectors, amongst others.
He further added that having the system in place will positively affect the incomes of skilled and unskilled labour in the long run, and will effectively integrate the country into the global value chain.
“The e-trade sector provides numerous and far reaching benefits for the country,” Ma’ahanua further explained with much anticipation and eagerness to go through the findings and recommendations of the report.
Solomon Islands now join some of the small island nations within the Pacific region to have had a Rapid E-Trade Readiness Assessment done on its status regarding the application of the system, which according to experts, best suits the Least Developed Countries.
E-commerce according to experts, is one of the key drivers of growth and innovation in the world today, and has significant potential for Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
If applied properly, experts revealed that the e-commerce can make MSMEs more competitive and allow them to grow and thrive in what is becoming a highly competitive global market place.
UNCTAD has created a “Rapid e-Trade Readiness Assessment” to help countries to quickly identify barriers to further e-commerce development.
These demand-driven assessments provide a basic analysis of the current e-commerce situation in the countries concerned to identify opportunities and barriers.
The resulting reports serve as a valuable input to these countries’ involvement in various discussions related to e-commerce and digital trade.
The launch according to UNCTAD representative, Sven Callebaut, is also a reminder that Solomon Islands can now move from assessment to implementation the action matrix, which many agreed that this is the stage where working together is vital.
Meanwhile, Ma’ahanua while touching on the next phase, he shared similar sentiments stressing that as was seen, this system will need the involvement and inputs of various ministries across th government, and in the private sector.
“It is a highly holistic process, and cannot be put in a single organisation or person’s hands. Thus, it is the duty of each one of us, to take responsibility of this report, and work towards implementing the activities that our skills are best suited,” the Foreign Affairs and External Trade official added.
Also emphasising on the implementation stage, the report suggests the role of international partners in support will be important, and Solomon Islands will continue to require technical and financial support in ensuring that e-commerce is firmly integrated in the private sector and trade development initiatives, and of course within the overall national development agenda.