PIF DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMES AND INITIATIVES, ZARAK KHAN
SAMOA E-COMMERCE STRATEGY AND ROADMAP
STAKEHOLDER REVIEW MEETING
MAY 13TH, MCIL CONFERENCE ROOM LEVEL 3, APIA
Dear Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, CEO of the Samoa Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour
Senior Private Sector Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, I thank the government of Samoa for the invitation to provide some opening remarks on the occasion of this Workshop.
Pacific Island Countries as many of you know are some of the most isolated territories in the world. The average distance of Pacific Island Countries from major markets is far higher than for any other country grouping, including the Caribbean region. Moreover, our average size is far smaller.
Our structural features undermine our competitiveness through diseconomies of scale and high transport costs. It is in this context that digital trade, or E-commerce, becomes a real game changer in our region. It allows businesses to use digital channels to connect with clients across the world and with other businesses across the global value chain – by doing so, it reduces the investment costs to start and operate a successful business, as well as the impediments to growth generated by high physical distances
The document that you are validating today is therefore very important, as this includes the measures to help Samoan businesses and consumers to leverage the power of e-commerce to improve their quality of life.
Samoa has already gone a long way to improve its E-commerce enabling environment. You already have some the best-functioning E-commerce marketplaces, successful small businesses selling their niche products electronically, the second cheapest internet connection in the Pacific, and the list could go on. Sky Eye Samoa through its leading and innovative Maua app is a great example of this.
Still, as your draft Strategy points out, there remain numerous challenges to fully unleash the power of E-commerce in Samoa. Fortunately, the draft Strategy proposes practical solutions for your government to address those challenges by expanding internet coverage, promoting ICT usage, building trust on E-commerce, facilitating e-payments and geolocation, improving digital literacy, etc.
I am glad to see that in some instances, the draft Strategy refers to regional actions as the way forward to address some of your challenges, and that regional initiatives such as those undertaken by PTI on freight assistance are acknowledged as scalable best-practices.
The identification of priority regional actions is at the core of our Pacific E-commerce Initiative which the Secretariat is coordinating.
Here I must acknowledge the role of Samoa in triggering this initiative, as it was the Samoa E-commerce Assessment undertaken in 2017 that inspired us all to pursue a coordinated approach to E-commerce.
This coordinated approach continues up to the present day, including for the development of national E-commerce Strategies. The Tonga, Vanuatu, and now the Samoa E-commerce Strategy have all been modelled on the template provided by the Pacific Regional E Commerce Strategy and Roadmap. This is important because it will facilitate harmonization of E-commerce policies across the region.
Besides supporting harmonised national strategies, the Secretariat and its partners are working on other projects that implement measures recommended by the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.
For example, in the policy area of Legal and Regulatory Frameworks, we have just concluded the delivery of a virtual E-commerce course to build capacity of Pacific negotiators, and which saw high participation from Samoa. I am pleased to announce that a self-paced version of the course will soon be available online for those officials who were unable to attend.
In the area of E-commerce Readiness and Strategy Formulation, major work is being undertaken with UNCTAD and the Pacific Community (SPC) to develop the first-even Pacific Database on E-commerce Statistics and fill observed data gaps. This database will represent a precious reference point for our members and for anyone wishing support our E-commerce agenda.
In the area of E-commerce Skills, our Pacific Trade and Invest Network is implementing a comprehensive suite of virtual trainings to improve E-commerce readiness of our businesses. Moreover, we are currently developing a suite of practical Business Toolkits for MSMEs wishing to commence their online journey, including three toolkits for Samoa.
In the area of Access to Finance, a small grant scheme for E-commerce Businesses has just been launched on the 4 May.
This work has been supported by donors Government of Australia, the European Union, Korea and the United States as well as well implementing partners UNCTAD and UNCDF.
By leveraging the power of collective actions and with the timely support of our development partners these projects complement the national work which will be undertaken under the Samoa E-Commerce Strategy.
We are just at the beginning our E-commerce journey, but I believe that we are on the right track to achieve our objectives, with the generous support of our members, partner agencies, and donors.
With that, I thank you again for this invitation and wish you all fruitful deliberations.