Transform Africa Summit, Kigali, Rwanda, May 2019

Speech by the UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein at the Transform Africa Summit, Kigali, Rwanda, May 2019

Hon Ministers
Director General of Smart Africa
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon,

I want to thank the DG Smart Africa Mr. Lacina Kone for inviting me to this conference and for giving me the opportunity to pass a short message from UPU to our Minister present here.

I commend the organizers of this forum for its rich content on the digital transformation of Africa. The forum is a big step in the right direction for Africa to take charge of its destiny. The gathering of the great minds of African Ministers, professionals, and intellectuals gives me great hope that Transform Africa is a real catalyst for transforming the continent.

The Universal Postal Union is the second oldest specialized agency of the United Nation with a membership of 192 countries. The primary focus of the union is to create a single postal territory, which provides all-inclusive, accessible, reliable, efficient and affordable postal services for all citizens of the world. Like every other business, the post has embraced technology and is operating in the digital space.

The Postal Sector uses ICT to enhance the range and quality of its products and services. The union, therefore, wishes to work closely with Smart Africa, ATU, and ITU as the vanguards for the implementation of the ICT policies in Africa and for the UN Sustainable Development Goals for member states.

During its 26th UPU Congress in 2016, member states identified the development of e-commerce by postal organizations as the priority for the Union. The International Secretariat was, therefore, mandated to assist postal organizations of member states to establish e-commerce services accordingly. We prioritized Africa, which remains the weakest link in global connectivity. We launched the Ecom@Africa project.

Ecom@Africa is designed as a continental-wide single window e-commerce platform for Africa that uses the postal networks for delivery and logistics. The project aims to give postal institutions in the continent a competitive edge in the market and an opportunity to play in this fast-growing sector.
The big foreign e-commerce players are currently doing very little to showcase African products or promote its trade. It, therefore, becomes imperative that Africa must find its own solution.  

Through this project, African posts will benefit from other UPU partners like WCO, WTO, UNCTAD, ICAO, AITA, IOM, etc, who play a critical role in international trade and e-commerce business.
Ecom@Africa is designed to provide inclusivity to small and medium enterprise businesses in Africa. The intention is to provide a platform where players can showcase and sell their products domestically and internationally. This will certainly promote trade and create employment opportunities for youth and women.

This inter-operable single window platform will give substance to the recent African heads of state vision for a single trading free zone for the continent. The visibility of products of each country will promote intra-African trade. The single platform will also make African products visible and available to the rest of the world.

The development of Ecom@Africa is primarily the responsibility of every government. Governments can therefore either fully fund the project or invite private sector participation. I also want to mention that in implementing this project, governments will have full control of their data privacy and regulations on the platforms.

The UPU has developed the concept; methodology and implementation plan for Ecom@Africa. We initially identified Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire and Morocco as pilot countries. Tunisia and Ethiopia have since joined. We have also received expressions of interest from other countries including Senegal, Tanzania, Ghana Mali, Benin, Djibouti, Somali and Burkina Faso. The interest is growing.

However due to resource limitations, we have decided to first move ahead with Ethiopia, Tunisia and Cote D’Ivoire who have placed resources and manpower at our disposal. These three countries have already made significant progress towards the establishment of their platforms. I also want to inform you that we received information that 150,000 private e-commerce players in the EU want to partner with Ecom@Africa.

In light of the foregoing, I call upon all Africa governments to consider partnering in this project. Ecom@Africa can only succeed with the political goodwill and support of governments at the highest levels. I would request that this Transform Africa forum takes note of this project as a viable vehicle for supporting the digital economy in Africa.

I want to assure you that the Universal Postal Union will always be at your disposal and provide all necessary support for you to establish your platforms in your respective countries.

Thank you!