E-commerce services and digital economy - ITC

E-commerce services and digital economy - ITC

Information dated: 2017

Mr. Anders Aeroe

Director, Division of Enterprises and Institutions

Tel: +41 22 730 0644

E-mail: aeroe [at] intracen.org ()


General Information

Cross-border e-commerce has opened up a new way to connect producers and merchants directly to customers around the world. In 2013, global business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales totalled US$ 1.2 trillion; by the end of 2016, sales reached an estimated US$ 1.9 trillion.

E-commerce can enhance the inclusion of developing country SMEs in global markets, yet there are also risks that could produce the opposite outcome. Despite investments in broadband technology, businesses in poorer countries are hampered by factors such as weak logistics and a lack of access to payment systems and technical solutions. ITC, as the only development agency that is fully dedicated to supporting the internationalization of SMEs, helps policymakers, TISIs and businesses to leverage new opportunities arising from the internet economy.

ITC’s services intervene at different layers of the digital economy.

Enterprise capabilities

ITC e-solutions help enterprises successfully take part in digital trade by acquiring the necessary capabilities that are not readily accessible, affordable or understood by smaller enterprises in developing or least developed countries. By facilitating the creation of platforms of shared technologies and services, including access to international payment solutions and logistics, small firms gain access to advanced technologies, share the cost of exporting goods, sell their products and services internationally on a cost-effective basis, handle foreign payments and achieve scale and presence online.

The ITC e-Solutions Programme was first piloted in Côte d'Ivoire in 2014, where SMEs were enabled to receive international online payments in a legally compliant manner through PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard. In 2015, a group of Moroccan SMEs that had been using e-commerce to sell products domestically formed the cooperative ’Made in Morocco’ aimed at selling their products internationally. In order to help the cooperative boost its access to and competitiveness in foreign markets, ITC assisted in establishing a formal commercial presence in Europe which has enabled the cooperative to correctly handle import duties and domestic taxes, and to counter customer unease with unfamiliar banks.

The surrounding business environment

TISIs, chambers of commerce, business associations and coalitions of services industries can play a key role in helping SMEs internationalize. ITC strengthens TISIs in their roles in supporting SMEs through policy advocacy, sector development and capacity building, as presented in ITC’s e-learning “’Building Competitiveness in Trade in Services’”. TISIs are also supported in establishing structures for sharing access to technology, payments and operations, to assist their clients.

ITC has published reports that review the e-commerce market and potential in specific countries such as International e-Commerce in Africa: The Way Forward and e-Commerce in China: Opportunities for Asian Firms. Other activities launched by ITC to promote change among TISIs include demonstrations and panel debates at ITC flagship events, self-analysis papers in which the appropriate TISI evaluates its readiness to act as an operational entity to support e-commerce, advisory services for the business model of collective organizations such as cooperatives, and capacity building activities for TISIs to develop cross-market platforms and implement promotional activities.

The national environment

Work directed at policymakers helps to identify issues and increase understanding of the potential for improving access to e-commerce. ITC and Diplo Foundation jointly developed an online course aimed at policymakers and other stakeholders intending to embrace a strategic approach to e-commerce. The course entitled ‘’E-commerce for SMEs: An Introduction for Policymakers”, available through www.learning.intracen.org, is designed to help participants better understand the multifaceted concept of e-commerce, the opportunities it offers to SMEs, and the steps necessary to create an enabling environment allowing for a greater uptake of e-commerce by both businesses and consumers

ITC’s report Bringing SMEs onto the e-Commerce Highway examines e-commerce-related policies that affect SMEs’ engagement in cross-border e-commerce. It provides a checklist of essential ingredients for policy guidance in four processes typical to all e-commerce transactions: establishing online business, international e-payment, international delivery and aftersales. ITC hosted a high-level forum on developing country e-commerce and digital trade at the China International Fair for Trade in Services to discuss key findings and policy recommendations in the publication.