Networking Ethiopia with Global Economy

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Today’s world is digital. It is changing beyond recognition at a breathtaking pace. The driving force for this revolutionary train of change is ICT. No country can afford to ignore to board the ICT revolution train as it is simply a matter of survival. From sending a letter to ensuring national security, ICT can make a vital role in our life. The way we do our jobs, trade, learn, socialize is continuously changing as the ICT is advancing pushing the frontier of the realm of possibilities and enabling us to do things that we would consider pure magic a few years ago. Trendy and fashionable ICT gadgets we were using a few years ago have now become obsolete and their accessories out of the market, they have been replaced by smarter and simpler versions.

Let alone for those in the developed and emerging economies, for us in the developing world, ICT is slowing but surely creeping into every aspect of our lives. The mention of such words like Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality, Augmented reality, 3D printing, Drones, Internet of things, satellite technology, etc in the local media is no longer unfamiliar. the relatively privileged section of our society is already settling their bills online, shopping from e-commerce platforms, record events with flying cameras loaded on drones, and live stream their ideas and events around the world using various platforms

ICT has already risen to prominence as a critical determinant of economic growth, national security, and international competitiveness. ICT has a profound influence on a nation’s economic performance and the societal well-being of ordinary citizens. It affects everything from resource allocation to income distribution and growth.

Realizing that the ICT industry and ICT enabled industries are the future driving forces of prosperity, developed and emerging economies are investing a growing amount of their wealth in the ICT sector. As a result, ICT is increasing its share in the GDP of these economies .It has also become a growth powerhouse, driving remarkable gains, powering real economic growth and employment.

Several studies confirm the link between ICT industry investments and economic growth. Findings are indicating that between 1995 and 2010, ICT contributed substantially to economic growth for developed, developing and emerging countries. Increased GDP growth and country- Specific global competitiveness can be primarily attributed to growth rates in ICT investment. Therefore, it is safe to say that ICT is an essential productivity and growth input.

Laying a fertile ground for the proliferation and growth of small business enterprises is the fundamental task to ensure sustainable economic transformation and creating jobs; and a dynamic ICT industry serves as a prominent growth mechanism in the small business ecosystem, boosting productivity. Governments in conjunction with development partners should create conducive atmosphere enabling small businesses to participate in global trade so they could seize the ample opportunities provided by the digital era.

The recently introduced economic reform agenda initiated by the incumbent Ethiopian leadership has identified IT as one of the five priority areas. The fact that the Agenda is prioritizing IT by itself attests to the fact that the Reform Agenda is designed with a well informed and realistic team of experts. The economic diplomatic efforts made by the leadership in drumming up the support of development partners is showing sign of fruition as we heard the news of the arrival of ICT tycoons and entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, co-founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba and the Twitter CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey.

Last week the Chinese multinational conglomerate company specializing in e-commerce, internet, Alibaba Group, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian government to help Ethiopia launch its first eWTP (electronic world trade platform) Hub, the second in Africa after Rwanda.

According to ENA, eWTP hub, the Electronic World Trade Platform hub, establishment in Ethiopia will help the country to provide better logistics and services that would enable the nation to penetrate the global market. It is also instrumental in transforming markets especially cross-border trades targeting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by helping them easily access the global markets and serve as a center of excellence in training young entrepreneurs.”

It was reported that the agreement for the establishment of the e-commerce platform is an important step in the development of a digital economy in Ethiopia, and it would greatly contribute to trade facilitation and open markets to SMEs not only in Ethiopia but in the wider state.FBC has quoted Jack ma as saying that he was inspired to launch the platform here because of the Ethiopian Government’s great attention to digital technology. Premier Abiy has reportedly said on the signing ceremony that an Electronic trade platform was part of Ethiopia’s technological development and a step forward in making Ethiopia one of the five economic giants of Africa within the coming decade.

A top Alibaba Group’s executive has reportedly said that the eWTP would bring a platform to Ethiopia by using e-commerce technology for international trade. The initiative focused on things like building logistics and warhorses that could help to facilitate the export of local products through a digital platform.

The development of the ICT sector impacts the nation’s economy in several important ways, most notably concerning sectoral innovation and reforms, accelerated economic growth, expediting business operations, making regulatory policies efficient, as well as being competitive in attracting FDI. Though in the stage of infancy compared to the more established sectors, the digital economic sector will surely have an increasing role as a key player in the nation’s economic landscape.

Emphasizing the imperatives of developing the digital economy and strong ICT infrastructure, this was what Jack Ma said last week in Addis Ababa: “In the past, the world was divided into developed and developing nations; in the future, this will change to whether you are e-country or not e-country.”

With nearly half the world online, with so many people using the internet, it makes sense for businesses to tap into the digital world. Every day, thousands of small business owners are already making the web work for them. The opportunities to reach customers from around the corner and the globe are too big to ignore.

The Ethiopian Herald Sunday Edition 1 December 2019

 BY SOLOMON WASSIHUN