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Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo need far-reaching reforms to benefit from e-commerce

Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo need far-reaching reforms to benefit from e-commerce

Non-existing reforms are impeding the maximisation of development opportunities presented by e-commerce in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo, according to reports by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The reports, presented at a regional e-commerce workshop organised by UNCTAD and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, stated that while the countries are committed to building a digital ecosystem, they all lack a dedicated e-commerce strategy.

In Burkina Faso, the organisation noted that e-commerce expansion is taking place mainly in the informal economy through private classifieds sites and social networks, while a small number of professional operators have developed platforms covering sectors such as agribusiness, clothing, IT and household appliances.

Burkina Faso's commerce, industry and handicrafts minister Harouna Kabore, said: "Burkina Faso must capitalise on the strengths identified by the study: the process towards the digitalisation of public services, a competitive telecommunications sector, the development of broadband internet infrastructure, a science park and dynamic start-ups."

According to the data, Senegal's capital city of Dakar has become a laboratory of tech start-ups, and FinTech players are already trying to penetrate the local market by forming strategic partnerships. Apart from a small number of operators, e-commerce is developing mainly in the informal economy, through private classified sites, aggregator sites and social networks.

Senegal's investment, partnerships and teleservices minister Khoudia Mbaye said, "The impact of the development of e-commerce in the structural transformation of the Senegalese economy is well established."

According to the reports, the potential for the development of e-commerce in Togo is limited due to a weak internet infrastructure, few online payments, and difficulties in making or receiving deliveries outside of the capital Lomé. It also noted that tech start-ups are introducing innovative solutions to try to address challenges.

Togo's commerce minister Essossimna Legzim-Balouki said "This new assessment has identified the development of e-commerce as one of the strategic sectors that should promote trade and remove barriers to trade."