Opening segment of Seminar Series on “South-South Cooperation in Cross-Border E-commerce for Poverty Eradication and Global Sustainable Development”

March 21, 2022

Your Excellency, Ambassador DAI Bing, Deputy Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations,

Distinguished representatives from the Government of China,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to join you at the opening of this important seminar series on South-South Cooperation in cross-border e-commerce. I congratulate and thank the Government of China for its strong support to South-South cooperation and the global sustainable development agenda.

South-South knowledge sharing is one of the best approaches we have at our disposal to build capacities, as it draws on what has proven to work in improving people’s lives, for the benefit of others. China’s experience of eradicating extreme poverty, which is the fastest poverty reduction in human history according to the World Bank, offers inspiration to all developing countries. Leveraging digital economy has been an important element leading to that success.

This is because E-commerce has been associated with the expansion of employment opportunities, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), women and youth, with transformative impact to all sectors including the informal sector. This became more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, amid the COVID-19 crisis, e-commerce is on the verge of exponential growth in most countries in the Global South. There are also signs that the platform economy has already taken root in low-income countries.

Digital platforms have the ability to connect people from remote areas and to provide them with the convenience, variety, and low prices usually seen in urban areas. The digital platform economy’s rise heralds a potential new era of reducing inequalities in both developing and developed economies.

Making E-commerce a catalyst of sustainable development can only be possible when major e-commerce platforms are actively engaged. For this, it is exciting to see that a number of major global e-commerce platforms hail from developing countries. We see local e-commerce platforms in Africa penetrate transportation, logistics, human resources, and agriculture sectors, boasting market shares that rival Amazon. Similar trends are developing in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

E-commerce development can stimulate inclusive economic growth, integrating developing markets into global supply and value chains, and therefore contribute to tackling poverty both in urban and rural areas.

However, digital economy, e-commerce and digital trade increasingly require cross-border collaboration. This is a priority area where South-South cooperation can add true value in boosting partnership among countries, improving infrastructure, capacity, harmonizing policy environment, and creating an enabling ecosystem for cross-border e-commerce.

In particular, the deepening of regional integration offers answers to several challenges we face today. Regional agreements and mechanisms can be effective in facilitating and catalyzing solutions through regulations, legal frameworks and shared standards. Regional free trade agreements or regional digital integration plans, such as a digital single market, may help foster inter and intra- regional digital cooperation. There have been various successful examples of regional South-South cooperation in e-commerce, such as the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean eLAC2020, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which has integrated e-commerce, and the ASEAN Work Programme on Electronic Commerce 2017–2025.

UNDP considers South-South and Triangular Cooperation integral to how UNDP thinks and understands the future of development. In addition to supporting South-South and Triangular Cooperation as a global knowledge broker, capacity developer, and partnership facilitator, building on comparative advantages such as its extensive country presence in over 170 countries and territories, UNDP is proud to host the U.N.  Office for South-South Cooperation as the focal point for coordinating, advocating, and facilitating South-South and triangular cooperation on a global and UN system-wide basis.

This seminar series offered by the Ministry of Commerce of China, in partnership with UNOSSC, is in direct response to the demands expressed by developing country partners and captures a transformational opportunity to support the Global South for a sustainable and resilient recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

At UNDP, we are committed to support countries and partners with inclusive digital transformation and to respond to the ever-changing digital landscape through our Digital Strategy 2022-2025. Indeed, the UNDP Accelerator Labs network is increasingly supporting informal sectors to access new markets by integrating digital technologies and adopting digital marketplaces.

  • In The Gambia, the Lab supported local vendors, women and youth by developing their capacity to trade electronically.  
  • In Uganda, the UNDP Accelerator Lab helped MSMEs remain afloat during the pandemic by engaging them in a local e-commerce platform and connecting them to their customers online.  

I am pleased to learn that more than 1,000 participants from over 90 countries are joining this week-long training programme, including policymakers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs from governments, IGOs, sectoral associations, academia and the private sector. I am confident such learning will be translated into enhanced partnership among all of us.         

Thank you.