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UNCTAD’s report commends govt’s digitization drive but…

A report by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said despite steps taken to develop the country into a regional e-commerce hub, the digitalization of government services is advancing and the government is investing resources into enhancing the overall business environment.

“Despite this, Tanzania has yet to adopt a stand-alone e-commerce policy or strategy and e-commerce is not mainstreamed into the national or sectoral trade development strategies. E-commerce development is not currently on the agenda of existing inter-ministerial or public-private dialogue platforms,” the Tanzania’s Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment report said.

The report further noted that with a large and growing population, a competitive mobile network operators (MNOs) market and increasing mobile service delivery, the trajectory of growth of mobile Internet users is positive.

“Building the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB), connected to the region’s main submarine cables, has resulted in lower mobile data prices for end-users. By the end of 2018, 3G and 4G networks covered around 61 per cent and 28 per cent of Tanzania’s population, respectively. This remains considerably lower than the 2G coverage of around 90 per cent,” the report noted.

The UNCTAD report stated that although mobile data prices are reasonably low, they remain unaffordable for segments of the population that mostly reside in rural areas which has resulted in a large gap in Internet use between urban and rural areas. “Also, fewer women than men access and use the Internet. Given that most Tanzanians access the Internet through their mobile phones, the low Internet penetration rate – 25-30 percent – is likely due to the high cost of obtaining an Internet-enabled phone,” the report pointed out.

Among initiatives taken by the state to advance digitization include adoption of a series of e-Government services, including the establishment of a government portal that serves as a one-stop centre for public services.

“The government has also recently introduced the Government electronic Payment Gateway (GePG) that enables all its entities (central, local and agencies) use a single payment platform. There have also been efforts to implement e-Government services in Zanzibar, such as the online business registration system implemented by the Zanzibar Business and Property Registration Agency,” the report revealed.

It also pointed out that with support from UNCTAD, Tanzania Investment Centre runs an e-Regulations website providing detailed step-by-step guidance for investing in the country while Ministry of Industry and Trade with TradeMark East Africa and UNCTAD support, is also currently developing a National Business Portal.

The report also faulted the government’s failure to submit ratification instruments for World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement despite parliament endorsing it last year. “The country has also not acceded to the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC). Despite this, the country performs better than its LDC peers on the different trade facilitation-related indicators, a reflection of the government’s efforts to improve its trade environment,” the UNCTAD report added.

Implementation of the Blueprint for Regulatory Reforms to Improve Tanzanian Business Environment5will further improve trade facilitation, while the National Single Window was expected to be rolled out by the end of 2019, the report stated.

Source: IPP Media

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark East Africa.

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