United Nations Conference on Trade and Development or UNCTAD has recently initiated an eTrade Readiness Assessment (eT Ready) exercise for Bangladesh, in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and in collaboration with BASIS and E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh(e-CAB).
Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) is the largest trade body in information and communication technology(ICT) sector in the country.The eT Ready is an independent UNCTAD evaluation of the national e-commerce ecosystem, and results in coherent analysis and recommendations (in the form of an action matrix) focusing on 7 policy areas, namely e-commerce assessments and strategy formulation, ICT infrastructure, trade logistics and facilitation, payment systems, legal and regulatory framework, skills for e-commerce, and access to financing.
The eT Ready Assessments programme is a spin-off of the eTrade for all initiative shepherded by UNCTAD and constituting a partnership of 29 international organizations that focus on e-commerce and the digital economy.
In the run up to the mission, the UNCTAD team has taken inputs from private and public-sector stakeholders (in the form of a brief survey) to understand their perspective on the current situation related to e-commerce and future development.
This survey did aid the UNCTAD team in conducting a preliminary analysis of the e-commerce ecosystem prior to the official mission.
Rahul Bhatnagar and Felix Haas from UNCTAD made a visit in Dhaka in last week of August. The officials came in a fact-finding mission which was involved a series of high level focus group discussions at the public and private sector level and will involve discussions with a wide variety of stakeholder institutions that make up the national ecommerce ecosystem.
They had discussions with more than 80 stakeholders in the form of Focus Group Roundtables with Banking, Financial and Payment Systems, Trade Facilitations and Logistics, Associations (BASIS, e-CAB, ABTOB, DCCI, FBCCI, BCS and ISPAB), academia and skill development partners and e-commerce entrepreneurs.They had effective sessions with a wide range of stakeholders like Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Post Telecommunications and ICT, Bangladesh Bank, Commercial Banks, Payment Gateways, Payment Aggregators, Mobile Financial Service Providers, Regulators (Bangladesh Bank, BTRC), A2i, Accelerators, relevant Law experts etc.
UNCTAD ICT Policy Section Chief Torbjörn Fredriksson said Bangladesh’s e-commerce ecosystem has demonstrated robust growth over the last decade, rendered possible by a driven private sector and an enabling policy environment.
Ambitious e-government initiatives are facilitating end-to-end digitization of public services, and a thriving startup segment is making inroads into ecommerce, while the recently adopted e-commerce policy sets the vision for the e-commerce sector.
Further growth will depend on alleviation of persistent and multidimensional challenges ranging from last mile delivery to access to financing to consumer awareness.
To this end, the eTrade Readiness Assessment of Bangladesh provides a nuanced analysis and solution framework, backed up by the eTrade for all initiative's partner network.'
It is worth mentioning here, the eTrade for all Initiative, launched at the fourteenth Ministerial Conference of UNCTAD in July 2016, is a practical example of how to harness the digital economy in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5, 8, 9, and 17.
The initiative seeks to raise awareness, enhance synergies, and increase the scale of existing and new efforts by the development community to strengthen the ability of developing countries to engage in and benefit from e-commerce by addressing seven relevant policy areas:
• E-commerce readiness assessment and strategy formulation
• ICT infrastructure and services
• Trade logistics and trade facilitation
• Payment solutions
• Legal and regulatory frameworks
• E-commerce skills development
• Access to financing
BASIS E-Commerce Alliance Convenor Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel led this initiative from private sector.
Regarding the initiative, Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel said,” As part of this initiative, demand-driven assessments are envisaged will provide a basic analysis of the current e-commerce situation in our country, and to identify opportunities and barriers,”
He said the resulting reports will serve as a valuable input to our involvement in various discussions related to e-commerce and digital trade, such as in the context of the UNCTAD Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy.
“It will furthermore help us to identify areas in which they could benefit from assistance by partners of eTrade for all,” Sohel added.
BASIS Standing Committee of Digital Commerce Chairman Syed Mohammad Kamal and eCab Director Asish Chakraborty have been instrumental to make this assessment successful.
Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel is Convenor at BASIS E-Commerce Alliance