UNCTAD’s eWeek Promises to Help the World Recover from COVID-19

UN Capital Development Fund will provide an update on its efforts to measure the inclusiveness of a digital economy
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United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD)

By Akanimo Sampson

During the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) eWeek event, digital solutions and policies to help the world recover from the COVID-19 crisis promises to be in sharp focus.

The online event which will be holding from April 27 to May 1, is a modified, smart edition of the popular annual UNCTAD eCommerce week at which senior government officials, chief executive officers and other stakeholders forge solutions to challenges linked to the digital economy. 

It will comprise a set of 15 online webinars and meetings that will discuss the evolution of e-commerce and the digital economy, its development dimensions, and how to address the economic fallout from the corona virus pandemic.


UNCTAD’s Director of Technology and Logistics, Shamika Sirimanne, says “although there will be fewer events, the online webinars will cover the critical issues being discussed right now, including the big question of how we navigate a digital economy, e-commerce and the digital divide in a post COVID-19 world.

“We need this week to collectively discuss how we face the challenges and use technology for our benefit both during the pandemic and once it is over.”

Digital technologies are crucial for coping with the effects of the pandemic.

A new UNCTAD report maps out how economic and social activities are shifting online in response to COVID-19.


Examples of these include applications for accelerating the development of a vaccine and tracing the spread of the virus.

However, the vast digital divide has also been exposed. With only half of the world’s 7.7 billion people online, there are significant development dimensions that need to be considered.

Adding, Ms. Sirimanne says “some countries and people simply cannot take full advantage of technology. Where does this leave them? How can we use this crisis to ensure that digital polices are developed and implemented and that nations can benefit more equally from the digital economy and technology.”


eWeek highlights

Events during eWeek 2020 will be delivered by UNCTAD and several of its eTrade for all partners.

The programme features two high-level dialogues, one donor roundtable; and a set of webinars to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting lives and economies and what policy solutions will be needed to sustain structural changes in the long-run.

The first high-level session takes place on April 27 from 3.30pm to 5pm and explores the role of trade and digital policies in coping with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis in Africa.


On the panel are UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi; Africa Continental Free Trade Area Secretary-General, Wamkele Mene; Ethiopia-based Blue Moon’s founder and CEO, Eleni Gabre-Madhin; and Rwanda’s DMM.Hehe founder and CEO, Clarisse Irabagiza.

The second high-level session takes place from 3pm to 4:30pm on April 28 and tackles how the empowerment of women digital entrepreneurs can help create more resilient economies.

This session will be led by UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General, Isabelle Durant, and Monique T.G. Van Daalen, the ambassador of the Netherlands to the United Nations in Geneva.


Other topics on the table include expert sessions that will cover: The emergence of digital “real-time economies”. How to facilitate, and expedite shipments during the corona virus crisis. How to protect consumers and what efforts competition authorities are undertaking to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic.

Special sessions will be devoted to innovation, data ownership and intellectual property, as well as the role of cyber-security and privacy in the digital and e-commerce space.

The role of the African Continental Free Trade Area in the digital era will also be explored; along with the launch of five eTrade readiness assessments for Benin, Mali, Niger, Malawi and Tanzania.


The UN Capital Development Fund will provide an update on its efforts to measure the inclusiveness of a digital economy and the International Trade Centre will showcase how to engage and succeed in online business.

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