Who’s Really Benefitting From SE Asia’s E-commerce Boom?

Sixth tone, an online website focussing on issues in China and the region, has a short article about some of my early work on E-commerce in South East Asia.

“Chinese-backed startups are evangelizing e-commerce in the region, but they need to be careful not to alienate local merchants.”

Full article on Sixth Tone

Article: Playing catch-up: how latecomer economies joined the digital race

This is a short article on the University of Manchester website to support a new paper by myself and Shamel Azmeh on latecomer economies and national digital policy.

New research from The University of Manchester explores the strategies used by latecomer economies to play catch-up to the digital world.

With the emergence of the Internet, digital companies and capabilities have been primarily concentrated in advanced economies. As digital technologies, data and AI are becoming used across all areas of the economy, these limitations are becoming important barriers to economic development. This has left emerging and developing economies, such as those of Asia and Latin America, at a disadvantage when it comes to entering the digital race.

So how do they close this gap?

According to Drs Christopher Foster and Shamel Azmeh, from the University, there are two paths being taken. The first is open and global trade, and the second is pursuing interventionist policies on a national scale. In their recent paper, “Latecomer economies and national digital policy: an industrial policy perspective”, published in the Journal of Development Studies, they investigated these competing approaches as they are applied in emerging nations.

Full article available from UoM website

Short Article: What can we learn about e-commerce in Africa from Jumia’s IPO filing?

I recenltly wrote a short article for the Manchester ict4dblog. It explores the recent Jumia IPO filing and the insights is gives us about African e-commerce

There has been growing discussion about the potential of e-commerce in developing countries. This discussion intensified recently when pan-African e-commerce firm Jumia went public in the US, becoming the “first African unicorn”.

The IPO prospectus, a 270-page outline of the firm released as part of this filing, has sparked much debate…..I will discuss the insights that the prospectus provides us about e-commerce platforms operating in Africa.

This is especially useful as we have been struggling with a lack of detail on e-commerce, with firms reluctant to share commercially sensitive information

See full post on the ict4d blog

Article: Trade wars are growing over the digital economy – and developing countries are shaping the agenda

Based on our research on digital trade, Shamel Azmeh and myself have written an article in The Conversation, outlining the recent activities and discussions.

At the heart of the current US trade war with China is tariffs on imports like steel, sorghum and silicon chips. But, with the growing role of data and digital technology in the world economy, a new arena of digital trade conflict is on the cards.

Read full article on The Conversation

Digitally removing the middleman for development: Trouble brewing in East African tea?

On the Global Development Institute blog, I outline some research done exploring digitalisation of the tea sector in East Africa. The findings were recently published in a book chapter inthe MIT Press book “Digital Economies at Global Margins”

How do new digital technologies enable firms to develop? One process often highlighted is disintermediation, where digital technologies allow firms to “cut out the middleman”. Exploring the Kenyan tea auction we suggest that these ideas need to be rethought. Digital technologies bring change, but may lead to more challenging conditions for smaller firms.

For more details, see the GDI blog

Policy to Support Digital Trade & the Digital Economy

This new post of the DIODE network blog outline some recent working papers by Shamel Azmeh and myself exploring digital trade cases in more detail

The global economy is experiencing important technological shifts with the rise of digital technology a key driver. These changes are likely to intensify in the coming years with new technologies that are emerging such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and autonomous vehicles.

For developing and emerging economies, the digital economy provides an opportunity to achieve economic and technological catching-up through using digital technologies and building capacities. But, technological shifts may also widen the technological divide with advanced economies weakening the position of developing economies in global value chains and making ongoing catching-up efforts ineffective.

To explore these issues further, we have recently be undertaking research which aims to offer direction in terms of constructing overall policy strategy in developing and emerging economies, in partnership with the Global Economic Governance Africa project, focussing on South Africa.

For more details see the DIODE network blog

“Falling Through the Net: The Role of Small and Medium Tourism Businesses in Digital Value Chains”

This is a short interview I did for Tourism Watch on our work on Digitalisation of the Tourism Sector in East Africa

With the installation of fibre optic cables in East Africa, internet connectivity got a lot better and cheaper. On one hand, this has facilitated the expansion of larger international tour operators and hotel chains into East African markets and allows them to better manage and control local suppliers. Due to cheap and reliable forms of digital communication local East African SMEs do not just compete with one another, but with global players as well. In our research we found, that large international tour operators were able to cut out some Kenyan and Rwandan ground handlers and intermediaries as they are able to communicate with the service providers directly online.

Full interview on Tourism Watch (German version)

Short article: The Digital Trade Agenda and Africa

The new edition of Bridges Africa, which is a well-regarded online publication focussing on international trade and Africa, is on e-commerce and digital trade.

Shamel Azmeh and I wrote an article for thise special issue entitled ‘The Digital Trade Agenda and Africa’

Digital technologies and data flows are increasingly the subject of provisions in trade negotiations. How do African states position themselves in these discussions in order to expand their digital economies and support digital industrialisation?

In this article, we discuss recent trends towards regulating broader aspects of digital technologies and data flows through international trade rules. Given the growing importance of digital technologies and data, these changes are likely to shape the future directions of digital economies, industrialisation and structural change in Africa. Yet, at present there has been little consideration of the specific challenges that African countries face.

Read the full article is available on the Bridges Africa site. The article has also been translated into French

Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers

I have a new blog post on the Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID) blog entitled “Measuring innovation amongst marginal producers: Implications of evidence-based policy”.

In it, I discuss a recent paper that looks at how to measure and better understand small-scale innovation amongst marginalised groups

Research on innovation in the global south has increasingly highlighted the importance of continuous, small-scale innovation for small producers and farmers – be that an adapted machine or an improvised farming technique. Stemming from such research, there have been calls for innovation policy to better consider such activity, to ensure that innovation does not just support large industries but also the development of marginal groups.

…In a recent paper, ODI economist Aarti Krishnan and myself developed a new approach to measuring small-scale innovation; we then use this approach to explore innovation in value chains in the Kenyan horticulture sector.

See the full article on the SIID blog

Digitalisation, small firms and value chains

This week UNCTAD released their flagship Information Economy Report 2017. With growing global digital connectivity and technologically-driven global markets, it is appropriate that it focuses on ‘Digitalization, Trade and Development’.

The report provides extensive outline of the latest thinking on issues including future automation technologies, online work and a consideration of what jobs and skills are important in this changing economy. See full report here

IER cover

Information economy report 2017

I was involved in contributing a background paper for this report on the digitalisation of small enterprises in developing countries and the impacts on trade which supports Chapter 3. I think it is one of the first analysis that attempts to provide a sectoral perspective on this topic, linking between digitalisation and small firms through analysis of ‘value chains’ in each sector. Continue reading