Your Royal Highnesses


Deputy Prime Minister

Cabinet Ministers

Excellencies, Heads of Intergovernmental Organisations and their Representatives

Excellences, Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Mr Malualem Syoum, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the African E-Commerce Trade Group and its Members

Honourable Members of both Houses of Parliament

Captains of Industry

Representatives from the Media

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen


I am honoured, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to welcome you all to this High Level Business Forum. This Forum is part of the programme lined-up for the launch of the Regional Office for Southern Africa E-Commerce Platform set for tomorrow.

When His Majesty King Mswati III confirmed the dates for the launch, Government found it prudent to organize a Business Forum that will provide a platform for stakeholders to interact and engage on this subject pertaining to the rapid digitilization of the global economy.

I personally have a strong background in the private sector, where I became aware of the importance of such platforms for networking and giving birth to business opportunities and subsequent deals that bring tangible benefits. I have no doubt that each one of you has been led and persuaded by a willing heart, to honour our invitation and join us in this new initiative for Africa on the E-Commerce Platforms.

Our leaders in the African continent have already taken a lead in identifying a major challenge for Africa, which is the low level of intra-Africa trade and our continued marginalisation in the global digital economy.  Intra African trade stands at around 15% compared to approximately 60%, 40% and 30% of intra-regional trade that has been achieved in Europe, North America and South East Asia, respectively. 

By the same vein, Africa lags behind in the global digital economy and is not represented in the world’s 70 largest digital platform companies, in terms of their digital wealth.

It is undoubtedly a giant leap that our leaders have not only identified these two problems but have taken the necessary and long-overdue step to put in place mechanisms that will address these problems. The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides our continent with hope and a roadmap for Africa to journey the path of addressing the low levels of intra-continental trade.

Supporting trade in goods is Africa’s commitment to liberalise trade in services, in the agreed facilitative priority sectors of Business, Communications, Financial, Tourism and Transport Services.  In addition, as part of the AfCFTA agenda, Africa will cooperate in the areas of Investment, Competition Policy and Intellectual Property, which are equally important pillars in supporting trade in goods and services.

The partnership that the African Union has established with the African Electronic Trade Group is one of the many efforts that are being implemented to address the widening and worsening gap between the under-connected, which is Africa, and the hyper-digitalized countries in other regions. This gap cannot be tackled by Governments alone, but a multi stakeholdership that has a shared mission and vision to raise the standard of living of the African people through transformative digitalization.

It is heartening to note that the African Electronic Trade Group has a vision “to transform Africa’s socio-economic environment by enabling African countries, communities, people and small and medium scale enterprises to leverage modern information and communication technologies”. This vision is equally embedded in our respective national development strategies in the continent.

Programme Director, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to note that the private sector is adequately represented in this Forum today. The Digital Economy Report of 2019, recently released by the United National Conference on Trade and Development, states that businesses that build digital platforms have a major advantage in the data driven economy.

The report notes that 40% of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization have a platform-based business model.  It further clarifies that we are in the early days of data-driven economy because by 2022 the global internet protocol traffic is projected to reach 150, 700 Gigabytes per second.

I have confidence that as you engage today, you will come up with practical suggestions and solutions on how Africa can position herself in this evolving data value chain, composed of private entities which support data collection, data storage, analysis and modelling. Our message to the private sector as Governments is simple - we are in this together. Your success is shared and felt across all facets of the economy.

We are prepared to listen to your suggestions to ensure that we adequately provide the necessary regulatory framework that would promote your meaningful participation in the digital economy. May I also challenge you to be open to new technologies such as blockchain, data analytics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, Internet of Things, automation, robotics and cloud computing, to remain relevant and not be left behind.

It is now my pleasure, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to declare this Business Forum officially opened.


Thank you.

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