The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Ethiopia is in the process of constructing a national draft law to govern and oversee electronic commerce, e-Commerce.
“The globalization of the world market means that international trading is an important element for economic development,” said Beker Seid, communications and public relations head with the ministry.
Electronic trade is believed to become a growth area which presents Ethiopia with multiple opportunities.
According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the globalization of the international market is making international trade a key vehicle for economic and industrial development.
The e-Commerce law is being drafted with the help of consultants to regulate the developing e-commerce industry in Ethiopia. Since critical information is being transmitted via the internet it is possible it may hindered by legal obstacles, or by uncertainty of their legal effect or validity.
As noted by UNECA, the main objective of the consultancy was to support Ethiopia’s initiative to create conductive e-commerce environment with aim to:
- Enable and facilitate the use of electronic commerce by individuals and businesses, essential for the efficiency in the international trade.
- Build consumer confidence and trust for the fullest economic and social benefits to flow from e-Commerce.
- Advance the acceptance of e-Commerce across regions and sectors in Ethiopia.
- Improve the e-Commerce capabilities of businesses.
- To give individual users of electronic commerce advice in the drafting of contractual solutions that are needed to overcome the legal obstacles associated with increased use of electronic commerce.
- Assist the government in enacting legislations governing the use of alternative to paper-based methods of communication and storage of legally relevant/binding/significant information.
Seid noted that, “It is known e-Commerce is liable to raise issues like security, dispute settlement, commercial trust and legal validity,” however, “Electronic commerce plays a significant role in the development and economic growth of countries as well being a benefit for people applying technology in their daily life.”
Although the e-Commerce law sounds like a beneficial move to Ethiopia and its business sectors, other experts remain skeptical.
Experts say the country has an unskilled labor force, limited access to technology or computers and an existing customs policy all problems when conducting an effective business strategy through electronic communications.
Ato Teshome Kebede, manager of hides and skins in USAID Agro-business sector, says that in order to engage in electronic business, there has to be prerequisites. According to Teshome, “We have to provide infrastructure like encouraging the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Moreover, business must be transparent, legal and reliable in order to pass information consistently.”
However, according to Merkato, the ministry is aware of the challenges associated with the absence of a regulatory framework which in return has limited the promotion and implementation of an e-Commerce system.
The e-Commerce law has been in developments for more than three years and is being drafted by the Ministry and UNECA.