Covid-19 News

WTO

World merchandise trade appears to have rebounded strongly after plummeting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether growth can be sustained going forward is unclear, according to the WTO’s latest Goods Trade Barometer released on 20 November. A sharp rise in the barometer index was driven by a surge in export orders, but mixed readings in other components and the resurgence of COVID-19 could weigh on trade in the coming months.

The Goods Trade Barometer’s current reading of 100.7 marks a dramatic improvement from the 84.5 recorded last August, which reflected collapsing trade and output in the second quarter as lockdowns and travel restrictions were employed to fight the virus. The latest reading indicates a strong rebound in trade in the third quarter as lockdowns were eased, but growth is likely to slow in the fourth quarter as pent-up demand is exhausted and inventory restocking is completed.

Trade-related uncertainty remains high. A second wave of COVID-19 infection is already under way in Europe and North America, leading to renewed lockdowns that could trigger another round of business closures and financial distress. On a more positive note, progress has been reported in the development of a vaccine, but when and how it might be deployed is not yet known.

The Goods Trade Barometer is designed to gauge momentum and identify turning points in world trade growth in real time. Readings of 100 indicate expansion in line with medium-term trends; readings greater than 100 suggest above-trend growth, while those below 100 indicate below-trend growth.

All of the barometer’s component indices were rising in the latest months, with some climbing above their medium-run trends while others remained depressed. The recovery in the overall barometer index was driven by export orders (113.5) and agricultural raw materials (103.6), both of which finished firmly above trend. The indices for container shipping (102.0) and automotive products (94.6) also recovered substantially to near trend, while those for air freight (88.5) and electronic components (94.6) remained below trend.

The latest reading of the Goods Trade Barometer is consistent with the WTO’s revised trade forecast of 6 October 2020, which predicted a 9.2% decline in the volume of world merchandise trade in 2020. This outcome would require a sharp rebound in the third quarter following the 17.2% year-on-year decline registered in the second quarter.

Normally the Goods Trade Barometer anticipates turning points in world trade by a few months, but new sources of uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have reduced the predictive value of its component indices. Under these circumstances, higher-frequency (i.e. daily or weekly) statistics may provide additional signals of economic activity and trade to complement the standard set of indicators. These indicators point to a stalled recovery of international flights and container shipping in October, but improved economic sentiment as reflected by copper futures and press reports (see below).

The full Goods Trade Barometer is available here.

Further details on the methodology are contained in the technical note here.

The trade barometers provide a preview of trends in WTO trade statistics, which can be downloaded at data.wto.org. Forthcoming releases include merchandise and commercial services trade values on 27 November and merchandise trade volumes in mid-December.

World merchandise trade appears to have rebounded strongly after plummeting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether growth can be sustained going forward is unclear, according to the WTO’s latest Goods Trade Barometer released on 20 November. A sharp rise in the barometer index was driven by a surge in export orders, but mixed readings in other components...

AfDB

The AfCFTA will not in one dramatic swoop alter existing commercial and economic realities on a vast scale, but its implementation could lead the recovery efforts from the COVID-19 crisis – Solomon Quaynor, VP African Development Bank

Industry experts meeting this week for a virtual discussion focused on resetting, retooling and restarting regional integration in Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscored the importance of putting small scale traders at the heart of any initiatives.

The joint webinar, organized on Tuesday by the African Development Bank and Korea Customs Service(KCS), looked at service sectors, e-commerce, digital platforms and value chain development as critical factors for accelerating trade and investment in Africa against the backdrop of the global pandemic. The webinar was delivered in three sessions, moderated by Stephen Karangizi, Director, African Legal Support Facility; Dr. Stephen Karingi, Director at Regional Integration and Trade Division of UNECA and Acha Leke, Senior Partner at McKinsey

History has demonstrated the success of countries and businesses that seize new opportunities during times of crisis, said Sukhwan Roh, Commissioner of the Korea Customs Service. “The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed health and livelihoods of individuals across the world in less than a year,” he said. “Korea wishes to share all the achievements in system enhancement utilizing new technologies with African countries.”

The workshop’s audience heard how regional integration is increasingly central to the continent’s future economic prospects and to attracting foreign direct investment. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, (AfCFTA), already ratified by 30 countries, is expected to come into effect on 1 January, 2021. Uniting all 55 member states of the African Union, the pact will create a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over $3.4 trillion

COVID-19 has deepened pre-existing trade frictions within the continent yet offers important growth opportunities and great stories of innovation and highlights the importance of protecting Africa’s place in local value chains, said Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, with the need to “put small scale traders at the heart of the effort.” She urged governments to strengthen national agencies to provide support to small traders.

“AfCFTA creates a new trade and integration reality…integrating unequal partners across the continent,” said Trudi Hartzenberg Executive Director of the Trade Law Center (TRALAC). Trade facilitation enjoys specific focus within the AfCFTA, with digital, e-payments, and e-commerce particularly important, she added, citing a 2020 WTO report that emphasized education and healthcare as fundamental to industrialization.

From the outset, the African Development Bank has lent strong support to the AfCFTA, financing the set-up of its secretariat as well as supporting member countries with technical assistance to comply with a range of AfCFTA regulations, said Bank Vice President, Infrastructure, Private Sector & Industrialization, Solomon Quaynor in his introductory remarks read by Abdu Mukhtar, Bank Director, Industrial and Trade Development Department.

Still, Quaynor warned, post-crisis recovery efforts are likely to be slow. “The AfCFTA will not in one dramatic swoop alter existing commercial and economic realities on a vast scale. However, through strategic measures and the right investments, policy frameworks and political backing, intra-African trade will be enhanced.“

African countries innovate to enhance local value chains

Presentations provided examples from Ghana and Zambia of strategies the private sector can adopt to leverage the AfCFTA within the context of the pandemic.

Ghana previously imported most of its Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, but, since the pandemic, the government galvanized 14 local garment firms to manufacture PPE. These firms now produce 1,000 items daily, according to Ghana’s deputy trade minister, Robert Ahomka Lindsay. The development has created 10,000 jobs.

“ Traditional value chains have been challenged… it made us realise that we cannot rely on those value chains,” Lindsay said.

Some of the worst-affected sectors in Africa such as tourism, aviation and education, had shown resilience, for example, in the food industry, which harnessed e-commerce for marketing during the pandemic, noted Kenneth Baghamunda, Dir. General, Customs and Trade, East African Community Secretariat. Zambia’s success with cashless payment solutions at its border and other innovations since COVID-19 was another example of favourable results.

“We need to see which value chains need to be developed and we need to interconnect our policies with the right institutional framework,” he said.

The AfCFTA will not in one dramatic swoop alter existing commercial and economic realities on a vast scale, but its implementation could lead the recovery efforts from the COVID-19 crisis – Solomon Quaynor, VP African Development Bank

Industry experts meeting this week for a virtual discussion focused on resetting, retooling and restarting regional integration in Africa in the wake of the...

UNCTAD

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting actors in the digital economy differently. While some digital businesses are showing resilience, costs are rising for others, a new UNCTAD survey shows.

Even though COVID-19 has pushed more consumers in developing countries to buy online, many e-commerce businesses in these nations have seen a slump in sales, according to an UNCTAD study published on 17 November.

Presenting hard-to-collect data from 23 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, the research shows a stark divide between the pandemic’s impact on different actors in the digital economy.

While 58% of businesses selling their own products or services online have recorded a drop in monthly revenue, about 64% of third-party marketplaces have seen a spike in sales, according to data collected between March and July 2020 from over 250 companies, most of which have less than 10 employees.

“We found that wholly digital businesses, especially third-party online marketplaces, have been more resilient during the current crisis,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director.

“Even with growing demand for e-commerce, most businesses have struggled to adapt and scale-up their operations online.”

Despite new, coronavirus-induced opportunities for digital business models, the outlook looks challenging for many of the e-commerce businesses surveyed. Two-thirds reported rising operational costs since the outbreak, and 44% expect to cut their workforce.

E-payments up, but cash on delivery stays on top

The study reports a notable increase in digital financial services in the nations surveyed – predominantly least developed countries (LDCs) – as consumers tried to limit exposure to the virus while paying for food, medicine, health and hygiene products and other goods.

Some 64% of the e-commerce businesses that took part in the study reported an uptake in payments primarily through mobile money, followed by online and mobile banking, credit cards and other digital payment platforms.

Yet cash-on-delivery remains by far the preferred form of payment for e-commerce transactions in LDCs, the survey confirms.

Tackling digital divides still as urgent

The study highlights the range of challenges e-commerce businesses have faced during the pandemic, notably disrupted supply chains, logistical problems arising from restrictions on the movement of people, and high broadband costs.

In LDCs, only 19% of the population use the Internet – compared to 87% in developed countries – and only 40% have access to a high-speed mobile broadband network.

“The existing divides in terms of digital readiness underline the need to accelerate policy reforms and mobilize support to build the capacity of developing countries to leverage e-commerce in their COVID-19 recovery plans” Ms. Sirimanne said.

“Digitalization must be placed at the heart of the development debate,” she added. “The current changes in consumer and business behaviour will have lasting effects when the world economy starts to pick up again.”

Response efforts and recovery plans

Close to half of the survey participants said governments had not prioritized the e-commerce sector sufficiently in their COVID-19 response efforts and recovery plans.

The pandemic has further exposed gaps in policy areas central to improving digital readiness in developing countries, such as weak e-commerce regulatory frameworks and bottlenecks in financing digital entrepreneurs and start-ups.

But the surveyed businesses did acknowledge that some measures taken by the public and private sectors have helped lower hurdles for businesses and consumers to use e-commerce services.

Increased public awareness campaigns on the benefits of e-commerce, more digital skills training opportunities, and reduced e-payment transaction costs were cited as the most impactful.

The report highlights several successful initiatives:

  • In Cambodia, the government has passed an e-commerce law to ease the registration of e-commerce businesses.
  • In Kiribati, digital solutions implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 have given fresh impetus to efforts to harness the development gains of ICT and e-commerce.
  • In Myanmar, e-commerce and the digital economy are featured in the government’s COVID-19 economic relief plan
  • In Rwanda, the Central Bank suspended mobile money fees for three months and waived charges on push and pull services between bank accounts and mobile wallets
  • In Senegal, collaboration aimed at onboarding new businesses and supporting local produce providers has proven successful (examples include the e-KomKom and the e-commerce Sénégal platforms)
  • In Uganda, e-commerce platforms have been fast to promote contactless payments and logistics and nurture new partnerships with development partners
  • In Tunisia, the “label de confiance” initiative has helped build trust across the e-commerce ecosystem

Readiness assessments and national strategies

Most of the surveyed businesses said a “a well-defined national e-commerce strategy” should be the top priority for COVID-19 recovery plans. Reduced costs for internet and broadband access, as well as for mobile and other electronic payments were the other measures recommended most.

UNCTAD and partners are working with many developing countries to help them put in place relevant measures and strategies.

The countries that took part in the survey have benefited from UNCTAD’s support in devising a national e-commerce strategy or conducting an eTrade readiness assessment, which gives a comprehensive diagnostic of a nation’s ability to benefit from opportunities in the global digital economy.

So far, 27 developing countries, mostly LDCs, have benefited from such an assessment, and the organization is now working with eTrade for all partners to fast-track the implementation of the recommendations, with financial support from the German and Dutch governments.

UNCTAD is also working with partners, including United Nations resident coordinators, to ensure e-commerce is mainstreamed into national development plans and development partners’ cooperation frameworks.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting actors in the digital economy differently. While some digital businesses are showing resilience, costs are rising for others, a new UNCTAD survey shows.

Even though COVID-19 has pushed more consumers in developing countries to buy online, many e-commerce businesses in these nations have seen a slump in sales, according to an UNCTAD study published on 17...

IDB

The VI E-Goverment Ministerial Meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean ended today with a pledge by ministers and other high-ranking officials from 33 nations to promote digital transformation to help with the region’s social and economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era, with a special emphasis on transborder digital services. In addition, authorities from participating countries designated Colombia as President of the Gealc Network. Colombia will hold this position in 2021 through its Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC).

In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the ministers and other authorities said: “Digital transformation is of the essence to promote the region’s inclusive economic and social reactivation in the face of the COVID 19 crisis. The colossal challenge posed by the COVID-19 virus pandemic has demanded extraordinary innovative efforts from the digital government agencies in the region in order to develop e-government tools to tackle the healthcare and social crises, while at the same time supporting the continuity of government operations, adapting to the different physical distancing methodologies adopted by each country.”

The statement also stressed “the increasingly important role of digital technologies and e-government tools to provide sustainable, inclusive and equitable services,” as well as “the transformative power of digital government to enable more efficient, transparent, and participative administrations in the region.”

The meeting’s inaugural session featured the participation of Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado, whose country hosted the virtual event; Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) President Mauricio Claver-Carone; and Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro. All in all, more than 800 high-ranking authorities, government officials, digital government experts, and speakers participated in the two-day event.

In addition, more than 350 e-government officials took part in a series of thematic meetings on a number of relevant e-government issues such as cybersecurity , innovation, open data, and emerging technologies. Experts from Spain, Estonia, France, Israel, Portugal, and the United Kingdom also participated. Digital government directors approved an ambitious collaborative work agenda for 2021 focusing on key areas for digital transformation such as interoperability, digital signature, cybersecurity, and digital ID.

The event also included a successful test of digital certificates’ validation operation between Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. This was made possible by the collaborative work of officials from these countries, with technical and financial support from the IDB. The exercise was complemented with the signing of a document promoting the transborder digital signature – a feature that will boost the validation of the digital signature among countries in the region.

Also, the ExcelGOB 2020 edition prizes were awarded to the best e-government solutions in the region. The ExcelGOB awards are presented by the Inter-American Digital Government Network (Red Gealc), with support from the OAS and the IDB. The delegations of the countries that took part in the VI Digital Government Ministerial Meeting used an online tool to pick the winners of this year’s edition. They were:

WINNERS

  • Brazil – digital transformation category, with a solution to digitalize procedures and transactions
  • Panama – digital government in the face of COVID-19 category, with the Plan Panamá Solidario solution.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

  • Argentina – gender focus, with App 144 against gender violence
  • Peru – open data focus, with single work certificate for young workers-CERTIJOVEN
  • Colombia – emerging technologies focus, with a special mention shared by blockchain for land adjudication, and artificial intelligence for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The ExcelGOB 2020 edition received 53 proposals from 14 countries. This year the contest made it possible to know and systematize the most innovative solutions in the region in terms of digital government in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Lastly, the meeting announced that Panama will host the XV Gealc Network Conference and Annual Meeting in 2021, whereas Peru will host the VII Digital Government Ministerial Meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2022.

The VI E-Goverment Ministerial Meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean ended today with a pledge by ministers and other high-ranking officials from 33 nations to promote digital transformation to help with the region’s social and economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era, with a special emphasis on transborder digital services. In addition, authorities from participating countries...

UNCTAD

Inequalities and vulnerabilities risk worsening long after a vaccine becomes available. UNCTAD charts a roadmap for a more inclusive and better recovery, emphasizing the need to reshape global production networks.

Global markets and spirits are up with the news that two COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be more than 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials.

But while there is growing confidence that an end to the health pandemic is in sight, an UNCTAD report published on 19 November warns that a viable vaccine will not halt the spread of economic damage, which will be felt long into the future, especially by the poorest and most vulnerable.

The report, Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trade and Development: Transitioning to a New Normal, provides a comprehensive assessment of the economic knock-ons, projecting that the global economy will contract by a staggering 4.3% in 2020 and warning that the crisis could send an additional 130 million people into extreme poverty.

The way the world economy is set up is partly to blame for the disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest, who lack the resources necessary to respond to shocks such as COVID-19, the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has gravely wounded the world economy with serious consequences for everyone,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“Moving rapidly across borders, along the principal arteries of the global economy, the spread of the virus has benefited from the underlying interconnectedness – and frailties – of globalization, catapulting a global health crisis into a global economic shock that has hit the most vulnerable the hardest.”

The report finds the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 will be derailed unless immediate policy actions are taken, especially in favour of the poorest. A better recovery must centre on renewed trade policy that tackles the twin challenges of market concentration and environmental impact, the report says.

It also notes there is a pressing need to reshape global production networks to be more green, inclusive, and sustainable while simultaneously resetting the multilateral system to support the most vulnerable and deliver on climate action.

A crisis of uneven impacts…

In the report, UNCTAD tracks the deepening impact of the virus on all areas of the world economy and maps how the crisis has affected global trade, investment, production, employment and, ultimately, individual livelihoods.

It finds that the pandemic’s impact has been asymmetric and tilted towards the most vulnerable, both within and across countries, affecting disproportionately low-income households, migrants, informal workers and women, the report says.

Global poverty is on the rise for the first time since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. In 1990, the global poverty rate was 35.9%. By 2018 it had been curtailed to 8.6% but has already inched up to 8.8% this year and will likely rise throughout 2021.

Additionally, COVID-19 has had an excessive effect on two sectors – tourism and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises – which employ many vulnerable groups.

For example, while older men may have suffered more from the health emergency, females and young people are most affected by the economic crisis. Across the 32 countries for which gender-disaggregated data are available, the countries with higher COVID-19 incidence have seen greater increases in female unemployment than male.

These and other setbacks, such as school closures that threaten 20 years of progress in expanding access to education, especially for girls, will have strong negative impacts on the productive capacity of countries well into the future, the report finds.

…and uneven responses

The disparities caused by the COVID-19 crisis are glaring, and vaccine production and delivery will likely underscore the limited capacity of most developing and least developed countries (LDCs) to respond to the crisis.

For example, the report highlights that the median additional spending per capita on fiscal stimulus or foregone revenues in developed countries and economies in transition has been $1,365 since the outbreak, compared to just $18 in least developed countries and $76 in other developing nations.

Figure 1: Fiscal measures in response to COVID-19 by country group.
Fiscal spending on COVID19

Source: UNCTAD calculations, based on data from International Monetary Fund, 2020, and the UNCTADstat database.

 

In addition, most poor nations simply do not have the needed safety nets in place to support their populations.

The report estimates that about 79.4% of workers in sub-Saharan Africa and 84.5% of workers in LDCs do not have access to any social protection or labour programmes.

The report calls for stepped-up international assistance, which would include offering debt relief to many poorer nations so they have the fiscal space needed to address the pandemic’s economic impacts on their populations.

A roadmap for better recovery
In the report, the UN’s trade and development body provides a roadmap for recovery that requires an overdue and opportune shift in the structure of global trade and cooperation.

“COVID-19 has been painful and course-altering, but it is also a catalyst for needed change,” Dr. Kituyi said. “We need to reshape global production networks and reset multilateral cooperation for the better.”

Global production networks will play a critical role in producing and distributing the new vaccine, as they have in moving critical medical supplies during the crisis.

But vaccine deployment will likely expose long-entrenched inequalities in the global trading system that the report says must change to “recover better”.

“Now is the right time to address the weaknesses of globalization that led to the rapid spread of the virus around the world and its uneven economic impacts,” Dr. Kituyi said.

“Such efforts must go hand in hand with the arrival of potential vaccines to market, otherwise we risk reinforcing those inequalities that turned this health emergency into an economic crisis in the first place.”

The report says the crisis can be a catalyst for new, more resilient production networks based on value chains that are shorter, and more regional, sustainable and digital.

It is also a chance to make production greener. Global CO2 emissions are on track to decline by 8% this year, or 2.6 gigatons. This is roughly the same reduction that is needed annually for the next 10 years to maintain progress to just a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures. As economies open back up, more needs to be done to ensure international production is in sync with the climate emergency.

“Much will depend on the policies adopted and ability to coordinate, both at the international and national levels,” Dr. Kituyi said. “Thus, despite the grim outlook, it is still possible to turn COVID-19 into the finest hour of the United Nations and build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future.”

Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions and target reductions.
Greenhouse gas emissions and reductions targets

 Source: UNCTAD calculations, based on Netherlands PBL (2019) and United Nations Environment Programme (2019).

Inequalities and vulnerabilities risk worsening long after a vaccine becomes available. UNCTAD charts a roadmap for a more inclusive and better recovery, emphasizing the need to reshape global production networks.

Global markets and spirits are up with the news that two COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be more than 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials.

But while there is growing confidence that...

WEF

Recovery from the economic setbacks induced by the pandemic will demand close cooperation between the public and private sectors, says Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank.

In conversation with Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, during the Forum’s Pioneers of Change summit, Lagarde outlined the challenges facing the global economy. She also described what kinds of response she would like to see and explained why there might be grounds for cautious optimism.

Many rivers to cross

“We were stuck,” Lagarde says of the fallout from COVID-19. “We were standing on one side of a massive river of uncertainty and hardship, both from the health and economic point of view. And we couldn’t even see the other side of the river.

“Thanks to the fantastic hard work put in by some companies in Germany, and in the US and in various corners of the world, we are now seeing the other side of the river because we know that vaccines are on the horizon.”

Getting to that other side is where the cooperation between public and private comes in. That means a determination to make sure structural economic changes are positive and that everyone continues to invest in the future.

Digital transformation has been accelerated in many aspects of life – both professional and personal – as people have adapted to remote working and education, ecommerce is booming, and people are getting more of their recreational activities via the internet. A survey carried out early in the pandemic found that 32% of people in the US were arranging virtual parties with friends or family.

Services: From local to global

“Digitalization will have an impact in terms of how services are provided,” Lagarde says. “They will probably be less local and more from anywhere in the world. And in the same vein, businesses providing those services will be more challenged from a competition point of view, which may bring about improved productivity.”

The private sector has an important role to play in creating jobs and income for people through ongoing innovation that brings new products and services to market. But at a time of economic uncertainty, this is a challenge for many businesses. It could cause some to adopt a more cautious outlook, paring back on any investments that aren’t absolutely necessary.

Lagarde calls for the private sector to rise to the challenge and says there is an important supporting role for the public sector in enabling that to happen.

“We need to provide the appropriate business environment where innovation will thrive. I think policy-makers are doing their best to remove the uncertainties. But it is the case that at the moment the private sector has put on hold a lot of their research and development efforts.

“Hopefully the private sector will get back into the swing of things and invest in research and development, because in Europe, in particular, they provide about two thirds of research and development.”

Past economic setbacks have helped fuel innovative growth, Lagarde says. “The 2003 SARS outbreak precipitated an acceptance by Asia Pacific economies to develop stronger digital infrastructure, which increased ecommerce massively. In the same way, after the financial crisis we had in 2008, we saw an increase in something the World Economic Forum has championed – social entrepreneurship.”

Crushed dreams and job creation

The economic fall-out from the pandemic has been felt around the world. Young people have been particularly hard hit, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The pandemic’s impact on young people has been “systematic, deep and disproportionate,” the ILO says. This has led to what Lagarde describes as the “crushed dreams” of young people who are joining the job market and “finding nothing”.

Countering this will call for a joined-up response from both public and private sectors leaders, she says. For while private sector businesses will create much-needed jobs, they will need help during the economic uncertainty – the kind that comes from policy-makers and legislators.

“Clearly, the environment that will be conducive to young companies to actually employ will be vital because it is those young companies, those companies that are under five years of age, that are providing the essential bulk of job growth,” Lagarde says. “From that perspective, I appeal to the private sector to continue to invest in research and development.”

It is important, she continues, that businesses make every effort to be open to digitally literate jobseekers that are keen to join the job market “so that these dreams do not get crushed”.

Recovery from the economic setbacks induced by the pandemic will demand close cooperation between the public and private sectors, says Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank.

In conversation with Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, during the Forum’s Pioneers of Change summit, Lagarde outlined the challenges facing the global economy. She also described what...

UNCTAD

A strong and better economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic requires governments to make the services sector a key element in their policy mix.

Services play a key role in increasing productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in the whole economy.

Globally, services represent two-thirds of economic output, more than half of the world’s jobs and about a quarter of direct exports.

But direct exports of services are just the tip of the iceberg. Services provide significant inputs to all economic sectors.

With their indirect contributions, including those produced in-house by non-services firms, services can account for almost two-thirds of the value-added of total exports.

Further, services make up two-thirds of total productivity growth in developing countries, making them a key element of these countries’ strategies for industrialization.

At the eighth session of UNCTAD’s multi-year expert meeting on trade, services and development, held in September, experts and policymakers underlined that services can help countries recover better from the COVID-19 crisis, and keep them on track towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Turning the tide on COVID-19

As countries reel under the pandemic’s economic impact, the services sector can help turn the tide by creating opportunities for greater income, food security, productivity, employment, investment and trade.

Servicification – putting a premium on the role of trade in services to power national economies – needs to be a key element of countries’ strategies for recovery from COVID-19.

But for services to serve societies and economies, countries need inclusive, coherent and fitting policies. In particular, developing countries and least developed countries need support to strengthen and upgrade their services.

With developing countries relying more on traditional services and developed countries depending on knowledge-intensive ones, the landscape is not even.

Dealing with the pandemic has underscored the need to mind the structural gap between developed and developing countries. It’s critical to promote key services inputs that transform the economy and trade in developing countries.

This calls for international cooperation, including South-South, on trade in services as a key element of the policy agenda.

Digital services transform economies

Services can be used strategically to facilitate economic transformation. These include ICT services that enable telework, digital financial services and e-commerce platforms, which have kept economies running amid COVID-19-induced lockdowns.

ICT services, which can increase efficiency and reduce costs, promote the digital transformation of farming, manufacturing and other sectors.

This services-enabled digitization improves supply and export capacity, enhancing countries’ economic resilience and recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

Digitization of services has helped creative industries cope with the pandemic, as many creatives have turned to digital platforms and technologies to connect with audiences and consumers.

The potential of digitization is equally important in other services that have been severely affected by the pandemic, such as tourism, the world’s third largest export sector (after fuels and chemicals).

A UN policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, released in August, projected that export revenues from tourism, which supports one in 10 jobs globally, could fall by $910 billion to $1.2 trillion in 2020.

In July, UNCTAD estimated that the losses could be as high as $3.3 trillion or 4.2% of the world’s GDP, if the pandemic puts international tourism at a standstill for a total of 12 months, a projection becoming more likely in the face of a still unchecked pandemic.

For small island developing states, where tourism accounts for as much as 80% of exports, the impacts of the pandemic are devastating.

Supporting countries to recover through services

As countries leverage services for post-pandemic recovery, UNCTAD continues to provide much-needed support, based on its longstanding experience of working on services, trade and development.

Its range of support includes policy analyses, consensus-building, capacity-building, advisory services and technical assistance on services.

In addition, UNCTAD’s services policy reviews assess and provide recommendations on services policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks.

As the pandemic wears on, the need to strengthen the services sector has never been greater, considering its vital role in enhancing productive and export capacity, diversifying and upgrading production and trade.

A strong and better economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic requires governments to make the services sector a key element in their policy mix.

Services play a key role in increasing productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in the whole economy.

Globally, services represent two-thirds of economic output, more than half of the world’s jobs and about a quarter of direct exports.

But direct exports...

ITU

Ministerial and Forum debates explore connectivity, measures taken, challenges and opportunities for the ICT sector in the COVID-19 era

The essential nature of connectivity, the measures taken in the face of the pandemic, and the unprecedented opportunities for the ICT sector in recovery from global crisis were the key areas highlighted by global ministers, regulators and industry leaders during Ministerial Roundtables at the recent ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 event. Discussions during three days pinpointed the priority areas for governments and the ICT industry as we move forward.

Critical connectivity

The pandemic has underlined the vital importance of connectivity. The ability to connect has moved way beyond a business requirement. Digital technologies have become essential tools in accessing urgent information, healthcare, advice, work, education and news. Connectivity is critical in keeping people physically apart but virtually together.
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At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a new digital divide, not only between developed and developing markets, but also between those who have and can benefit from digital technologies as our lives increasingly shift online, and those who cannot.

Immediate measures undertaken

In countries around the world, key players from government and industry rose to the challenge and worked together to roll out emergency measures and essential services such as text information alerts or hotlines, ensuring the health and safety of citizens. Short-term government actions to support the operators included regulatory relaxations on spectrum, infrastructure sharing and licencing, as well as recognizing telecom engineers as key workers able to move around to support and maintain critical infrastructure.

The seismic shift in working patterns as many people move towards remote working has also meant adapting to a huge increase in network traffic patterns. And networks have been able to cope with this change.

Much of the work of governments has been forced online, and this has accelerated progress in e-government dramatically, which is expected to continue after the pandemic.

Opportunities and challenges

The pandemic has provided a major challenge as well as new opportunities for the ICT sector. Sectors such as e-health and e-education have boomed as a result and will continue to play important roles. In health terms, digital technologies have underpinned areas such as track and trace operations or assisting with remote COVID-19 diagnosis and telemedicine, as well as the prediction of patterns of contagion and outbreak using AI, big data and algorithms. Education has moved online, providing e-learning for students from schools and universities worldwide, helped by innovative connectivity solutions, including free public WiFi, use of universal service funds for rural service provision, government subsidies and free access to learning platforms and websites. The pandemic has also meant that countries have fast tracked legislation and national digital transformation plans.

The issue of digital literacy has become increasingly important in these difficult times. People need the right skillset to be able to survive and thrive in the digital world. Developing human capacity, therefore, needs to be at the centre of connecting the unconnected.

Cybersecurity is ever more critical–as more employees are working remotely and more key information is being disseminated via digital technology, attacks have also increased during the crisis. This has caused greater vulnerability and an increased awareness of the need for appropriate legislation and cross-border cooperation.

The road ahead

The message from ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 was clear: the new digital world must be built on continued collaboration and cooperation, nationally, regionally and internationally, to ensure sustainable connectivity for all.

Connectivity and digital technology should be placed at the forefront of policy concerns. Governments need to build a conducive environment for digital business and society, with measures such as harmonizing regulation, making available spectrum, attracting investment and creating incentives for business. The deployment of 5G networks also offers great potential to boost connectivity and speed recovery.

Efforts to bridge the digital divide must incorporate the public sector, the international community and all players across industries, including different technology providers – satellite, mobile, fixed, 5G and emerging providers – as well as innovative SMEs.

ITU Digital World 2020 and beyond

ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 was a three-day online event, co-organized by ITU and Viet Nam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), comprising Ministerial Roundtables, Forum webinars and an online exhibition, and bringing together some 80 high-level speakers including ministers, regulators and industry leaders from around the world.

Alongside the Ministerial Roundtable and Forum, ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 also included a global virtual exhibition, open online until the end November, organized by Viet Nam and supported by ITU, which showcased the tech innovations of more than 150 virtual exhibitors from Viet Nam and global companies. It also included 10 national pavilions from around the world including Viet Nam, Cambodia, Cuba, Finland, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Timor Leste and Zambia.

The event forms part of a programme of virtual activities co-organized by ITU and Viet Nam’s Ministry of Information and Communications in the build-up to the physical ITU Digital World 2021, taking place in Ha Noi, Viet Nam in October 2021 and hosted by the Government of Viet Nam. The next virtual activity will be the ITU Virtual Digital World 2020 SME Awards, including a series of SME Masterclasses open to all, live pitching from 30 November to 3 December, and the Awards Ceremony on 7 December 2020.

 

Ministerial and Forum debates explore connectivity, measures taken, challenges and opportunities for the ICT sector in the COVID-19 era

The essential nature of connectivity, the measures taken in the face of the pandemic, and the unprecedented opportunities for the ICT sector in recovery from global crisis were the key areas highlighted by global ministers, regulators and industry leaders during Ministerial Roundtables...

WEF

The Forum’s latest Great Reset meeting brought together Iván Duque, the President of Colombia, Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel.

All three highlighted the importance of education in preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Infrastructure, digital access and international collaboration were also key.

“There are so many problems that technology can provide solutions for. And that’s why we’ve prioritized investments in technology and infrastructure.” These were the words of Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a virtual session, The Great Reset: Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which brought together three heads of state along with leaders from academia, biotech and finance to discuss the role digital technology will play in the COVID recovery.

 

Studies have shown that the world leaped forward five years in digital uptake during the early days of the pandemic. AI is projected to increase global GDP by about 15% in this decade alone, while 5G is also expected to generate $13 trillion in global economic value and 22 million jobs by 2035.

Technology is clearly key to the recovery and our ongoing resilience – but there are also challenges to be faced. Many industries, built for an analogue era, are still playing digital catch-up. Meanwhile there is a real risk that the pandemic will deepen the digital divide, with close to half the world’s population still not connected to the internet.

To unlock a sustainable future, we need the right digital-enabling policies in place. Here’s how the three leaders are facing up to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Colombia has seen a ‘double acceleration’
– Iván Duque

“Colombia will be working very hard to meet the goal of being conceived as a Silicon Valley in Latin America, and a start-up nation,” says the country’s President Iván Duque, citing the OECD Digital Government Index, in which Colombia was ranked third this year.

But central to this digital transformation is equality, adds Duque, and a social pact that aims to bridge the digital divide.

“It starts with connectivity,” he says. “Our goal is to have 70% of all the Colombian population with high-speed internet by the end of my administration in August 2022.”

The Latin American nation also aims to train 100,000 programmers, and to expand digital penetration into education, land registry and tax collection, while 10,000 additional areas of the country are being brought high-speed internet “to expand services for the poorest of the poor”.

There has been an acceleration of digital literacy across Colombia, from fintech to e-commerce and telemedicine. For the country’s young people, this acceleration has proceeded at “double” the pace. Duque explains that this has been brought on by demand for new skills among international companies.

“Kids that are graduating from high school will have on the one hand their high school diploma, and on the other hand a degree as a technician so that they can start in the labour force.”

In Africa, it’s about working together
– Paul Kagame

“Rwanda has continued to prioritize investment in technology, broadband and digital skills, but we’re aware that it’s going to succeed [only] in the wider context of our continent, which in many cases has been left behind,” says Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. “We have had this vision where not only do we develop these capacities not only within our own country but across the continent.”

For this “pan-African” approach to function, systems must be capable of communicating across borders. “We’re aware that technology innovation is moving fast, and this puts pressure on regulators to find the right balance,” Kagame explains. “We don’t want this to happen in one country and not another. It affects how we work together, especially in context of the new continental free-trade area, created across Africa, which by any measure seems to be the largest in the world.”

Like Colombia, Rwanda has established a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to foster public-private collaboration. “We continue to build on that for deeper partnerships with the private sector,” Kagame explains. “The private sector is very crucial in creating jobs, in making sure they bring the necessary investments in creating the jobs required for our young people.”

Designing the right education for young people is a key investment for the future. “Most children entering primary school today will work in jobs that don’t yet exist, so the curriculum has to be flexible and future-oriented, with technology skills as a priority,” says Kagame.

He says government must prioritize investments in infrastructure and skills, but also in how Africans communicate across the continent. “We will invest not only in tech innovations but in technical and vocational education. This needs to be more widely available, especially because of these big numbers of young people.”

The world has changed. Can we keep up?
– Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel has been battling extremely high COVID infection rates, and in September had to impose a general lockdown right at the start of the school year.

“What do we do with the schools?” says Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. “How do we open them up? And the reason that’s an acute question is not merely because of the virus but because of the digital divide. Because if you don’t want to open them up and you use e-learning, what about those who don’t have e-learning?” A lack of digital access is prevalent in Israel’s Orthodox Jewish and Arab communities.

The first focus, then, had to be on infrastructure. The government allocated resources to buy computers for deprived children, and established a fund to stretch fibreoptic technology to all parts of Israel. “Even though we have a tiny country, we have central places where the 5G companies will go and other remote areas where they won’t go because it’s not profitable for them,” says Netanyahu. In this way, they could ensure “every girl and boy, every teenager and every university student can have these capabilities”.

The second priority is on human resources to staff the tech space of the future. Thanks to a deliberate drive, the number of IT students in the country’s universities has grown 70%. Far from deepening the digital divide, says Netanyahu, this is boosting the number of IT educators for the future, as well as the number of tech workers for the nation’s booming start-up scene. Israel’s R&D spending per capita is already the highest in the world.

Its important for the country to maintain its focus on excellence, says Netanyahu. “Don’t try to erase the digital divide by lowering the top. You can raise the bottom but if you lower the top you get nothing.”

As a third focus, the country is updating regulation to bring it into line with the new normal. “Our economies and our educational systems, our social systems are geared to yesterday. We have to gear them towards tomorrow.” To this end, Israel is specifically looking to change regulations on driverless cars and drones.

The fourth key, Netanyahu says, is international co-operation – especially in the context of the COVID-19 vaccine. Israel enjoys partnerships in Latin America and Africa, as well as with Australia, Singapore and Britain. “These co-operations are very valuable.”

A new co-operation that is “giving enormous hope to everyone here” is with the Arab world. “We have just signed peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates; we’re signing peace agreements now with Bahrain.” These agreements include the sharing of technology in the coronavirus fight and beyond.

Finally, Israel is looking to ensuring its cyber-defence systems are watertight. “The more we have a dependence on these [digital] systems, the more we need to protect them.”

“I think the world has already changed,” says Netanyahu. “The only question is how fast do we change.”

The Forum’s latest Great Reset meeting brought together Iván Duque, the President of Colombia, Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel.

All three highlighted the importance of education in preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Infrastructure, digital access and international collaboration were also key.

“There are so many...

UNCTAD

Stakeholders gather to share experiences and exchange information to advance the welfare of consumers in open markets.

Countries have taken various steps to protect consumers as they implement measures to overcome the adverse health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

At the 8th United Nations Conference on Competition and Consumer Protection slated for 19 to 23 October, ministers, heads of competition and consumer protection authorities and civil society representatives will chart the path forward in better safeguarding consumers’ welfare amid and after the pandemic.

The quinquennial conference is the highest-level meeting on competition and consumer protection within the UN, bringing together stakeholders from all over the world.

UNCTAD is the focal point within the UN system on these two issues and offers the only platform for global international cooperation.

COVID-19 underscores need for international cooperation

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that international cooperation in the fields of competition and consumer protection is crucial,” said Teresa Moreira, UNCTAD’s head of competition and consumer policies.

The conference is an opportunity for stakeholders to share experiences, exchange information on similar competition and consumer protection cases, improve laws and policies, generate consensus and take common positions.

International cooperation on competition and consumer protection is expected to lead to more efficient use of resources at national, regional and global levels, joint case handling, more efficient investigations and more effective results.

In April, UNCTAD called for firmer action to protect consumers as the first wave of the pandemic raged.

Governments have since fought unfair practices such as price gouging and non-respect of refunds, and defended competition to protect consumers, prevent the distortion of markets and promote a healthy economic recovery from the pandemic.

Participants at the conference will discuss how to combat cross-border cartels and improve consumer product safety around the world.

Protecting digital consumers

They will also examine ways to better protect consumers in the digital era.

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards a digital world, as people have turned to online platforms to shop, telework and connect with families and friends.

Uppermost in the minds of policymakers is how to make consumer protection and competition policies fit for purpose in the digital economy.

The pandemic has seen dominant online platforms benefit significantly. Stock prices and market capitalization of the world’s leading technology companies have skyrocketed.

“Governments should consider regulation of these platforms to maintain competitive and open digital markets and better protect consumers,” Ms. Moreira said.

She added that legislative frameworks should address the increasing market power of the platforms to protect consumers from unfair and misleading practices.

According to the UNCTAD World Consumer Protection Map, 97% of the 84 countries that responded to a related survey have a consumer protection law, with 62% addressing issues related to e-commerce.

“Consumers must enjoy a level of protection online that is no less than offline,” Ms. Moreira said. “This may mean enacting or reviewing national policies and upgrading enforcement capacities.”

Another top priority is ensuring access by consumers to fair, effective, transparent and impartial dispute resolution mechanisms, particularly online.

Equally high on the agenda is the need for businesses to protect consumers’ privacy through a combination of appropriate control, security, transparency and consent mechanisms related to the collection and use of their personal data.

The UN guidelines on consumer protection remain a relevant tool for governments aiming to improve consumer protection in the digital era, and their implementation will be reviewed during the conference.

Bolstering competition in the markets

The sweeping economic impact of COVID-19 has left governments balancing between defending competition, so prices don’t become prohibitive, and granting exemptions to competition rules to ensure the survival of entire economic sectors.

Though many competition authorities have heeded the call made by UNCTAD in April and deployed various tools to limit the adverse consequences of COVID-19 in the markets, the pandemic has weakened competition globally.

For instance, many undercapitalized companies from fiscally stressed developing countries now face competition from stronger foreign rivals strengthened by massive financial support from their governments’ stimulus packages.

Small and medium enterprises or startups in financial difficulty also risk becoming attractive targets for acquisition by dominant firms, especially multinational companies.

The pandemic has raised fears that mergers and acquisitions could increase, subsequently raising market concentration.

In addition, countries might adopt trade restrictive measures to make imports more expensive and less competitive to favour domestic production in their efforts to boost economic recovery.

The conference will examine how to bolster competition to keep prices low and level the playing field to continue advancing the welfare of consumers in open markets.

Participants will also review the implementation of the UN set of principles on competition, which set establish rules for the control of anti-competitive practices.

Further, they will consider proposed guiding policies and procedures of the principles for cooperation on competition issues among developing and developed countries.

The outcomes of the conference will guide UNCTAD’s future work on competition and consumer protection, including technical assistance and capacity-building for developing countries, least developed countries and countries with economies in transition.

Stakeholders gather to share experiences and exchange information to advance the welfare of consumers in open markets.

Countries have taken various steps to protect consumers as they implement measures to overcome the adverse health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

At the 8th United Nations Conference on Competition and Consumer Protection slated for 19 to 23 October, ministers, heads of competition...

UNCTAD

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. A recent online consumer survey shows that changes in online shopping behaviours are likely to have lasting effects.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviours, according to a survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies.

The survey, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”, examined how the pandemic has changed the way consumers use e-commerce and digital solutions. It covered Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey.

Following the pandemic, more than half of the survey’s respondents now shop online more frequently and rely on the internet more for news, health-related information and digital entertainment.

Consumers in emerging economies have made the greatest shift to online shopping, the survey shows.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

He said the acceleration of online shopping globally underscores the urgency of ensuring all countries can seize the opportunities offered by digitalization as the world moves from pandemic response to recovery.

Online purchases rise but consumer spending falls

The survey conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, in collaboration with the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) and Inveon, shows that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.

The biggest gainers are ICT/electronics, gardening/do-it-yourself, pharmaceuticals, education, furniture/household products and cosmetics/personal care categories (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Percentage of online shoppers making at least one online purchase every two months

Source: UNCTAD and NetComm Suisse eCommerce Association

However, average online monthly spending per shopper has dropped markedly (Figure 2). Consumers in both emerging and developed economies have postponed larger expenditures, with those in emerging economies focusing more on essential products.

Tourism and travel sectors have suffered the strongest decline, with average spending per online shopper dropping by 75%.

Figure 2: Fall of average online spending per month since COVID-19, per product category

Source: UNCTAD and NetComm Suisse eCommerce Association

“During the pandemic, online consumption habits in Brazil have changed significantly, with a greater proportion of internet users buying essential products, such as food and beverages, cosmetics and medicines,” said Alexandre Barbosa, manager of the Regional Center of Studies on the Development of Information Society (Cetic.br) at the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br).

Increases in online shopping during COVID-19 differ between countries, with the strongest rise noted in China and Turkey and the weakest in Switzerland and Germany, where more people were already engaging in e-commerce.

The survey found that women and people with tertiary education increased their online purchases more than others. People aged 25 to 44 reported a stronger increase compared with younger ones. In the case of Brazil, the increase was highest among the most vulnerable population and women.

Also, according to survey responses, small merchants in China were most equipped to sell their products online and those in South Africa were least prepared.

“Companies that put e-commerce at the heart of their business strategies are prepared for the post-COVID-19 era,” said Yomi Kastro, founder and CEO of Inveon. “There is an enormous opportunity for industries that are still more used to physical shopping, such as fast-moving consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.”

“In the post-COVID-19 world, the unparalleled growth of e-commerce will disrupt national and international retail frameworks,” said Carlo Terreni, President, NetComm Suisse eCommerce Association.

“This is why policymakers should adopt concrete measures to facilitate e-commerce adoption among small and medium enterprises, create specialized talent pools and attract international e-commerce investors.”

Digital giants grow stronger

According to the survey, the most used communication platforms are WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, all owned by Facebook.

However, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have benefitted the most from increases in the use of video calling applications in workplaces.

In China, the top communication platforms are WeChat, DingTalk and Tencent Conference, the survey shows.

Changes are here to stay

The survey results suggest that changes in online activities are likely to outlast the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most respondents, especially those in China and Turkey, said they’d continue shopping online and focusing on essential products in the future.

They’d also continue to travel more locally, suggesting a lasting impact on international tourism.

Webinar on survey findings

webinar on the findings of the survey will take place on Friday, 9 October, at 2pm Central European Time. You can register for the webinar here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. A recent online consumer survey shows that changes in online shopping behaviours are likely to have lasting effects.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviours, according to a survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies.

The survey, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”,...

ESCAP

The Third ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit convened today with government officials and business leaders advocating for inclusive business strategies that support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to recover from economic setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the South-East Asia region. The region already faced an ambitious challenge to reach its SDG targets by 2030 – there are concerns that this may be moving even further out of reach.

Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Summit marked the continued commitment of the ASEAN Community, including government representatives, the private sector, investors and development organizations, to create an enabling ecosystem for inclusive business.

“As countries look to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic – including by supporting small and medium enterprises, promoting women’s economic empowerment and accelerating the digital transformation – inclusive businesses have the potential to be a driving force for transformation towards a green, inclusive and resilient ASEAN,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Kaveh Zahedi in his opening remarks.

The Summit also introduced the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN and explored its practical application on a national and regional level. The Guidelines were endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) during the 52nd AEM Meeting in August 2020 and serve as an outline on how inclusive businesses can be supported at all levels and the institutional requirements to do so.

“The inclusive business model compels us to connect the dynamics between the government, private sector and low-income and poor communities, including the micro and small enterprises in achieving national and regional objectives.  The Guidelines provide a greater understanding of these dynamics for ASEAN Member States and the region collectively to move on to consider integrating inclusive business in their national and regional policies,” said Mr. Bountheung Douangsavanh, Chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME).

As the sectoral body coordinating MSME development in the region, the ACCMSME, with the support of ESCAP, iBAN and OECD has been at the forefront of promoting the inclusive business model in ASEAN and advocating its alignment with the MSME-development policies. The Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN is a culmination of past initiatives, building on interactions and lessons learnt since 2018.

Leveraging the wealth of expertise in the region, the Summit also explored partnerships in knowledge, digital platforms, investments and facilitation that enable the growth of inclusive business in ASEAN and their social impact. As business leaders and governments make progress in promoting inclusive business, delegates discussed how they can work together to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 and how women, overrepresented among the poor, can be better included in value chains as well as the role of social enterprises contributing to inclusive business models.

“The current crisis shows us that inclusive businesses are more resilient against such external shocks and contribute to a speedy and sustainable recovery. It is therefore of utmost importance that the framework conditions for such businesses are being improved and companies are being encouraged to develop their business model in a direction that not only serves the needs of the company but also the needs of the most vulnerable and poor in the communities,” said Mr. Christian Jahn, Executive Director, iBAN.

Inclusive businesses provide goods, services, and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis, to people living at the base of the pyramid making them part of the value chain of companies as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers. Since 2017, ASEAN governments have started developing policies to encourage more inclusive businesses to emerge and scale up. At the same time, business leaders, the finance community and other stakeholders have stepped up to the task of developing inclusive business models for economic growth and social impact at scale.

“Recovering from the COVID-19 crisis will require a whole-of-society effort. Working hand in hand with governments and all stakeholders, businesses can contribute to a recovery that is sustainable, resilient and inclusive by embracing business models and taking operational decisions that are in line with international recommendations on responsible business conduct,” shared Ms. Cristina Tebar Less, Head of Responsible Business Conduct Centre, OECD.

Read the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN: https://asean.org/storage/2020/09/ASEAN-IB-Promotion-Guidelines-Endorsed-at-the-52nd-AEM.pdf.

The Third ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit convened today with government officials and business leaders advocating for inclusive business strategies that support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to recover from economic setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the South-East Asia region. The region already faced an ambitious challenge to reach its SDG targets by 2030 – there...

WIPO

The WIPO Pearl terminology database has added some 1,500 new COVID-19-related terms in 10 languages, helping innovators targeting new coronavirus treatments and diagnostics with a baseline set of terms and their multilingual equivalents. This advancement will foster international collaboration and promote easier access to information in patent documents and other public resources produced around the world.

From today, WIPO Pearl now contains 147 key concepts related to COVID-19, amounting to nearly 1,500 terms as each concept is given in 10 languages. They are primarily drawn from the fields of biology, medicine (especially epidemiology and diagnostics), and public health and each concept is provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, which are also the official languages of WIPO’s International Patent System. The aim is to help provide consistency and clarity across different languages regarding key terminology of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Innovation is increasingly global in nature, so a verified multilingual set of commonly understood COVID-19-related terms creates a knowledge base that helps researchers access and build upon work created in another language,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “WIPO is providing this upgraded service in support of the global drive to find new treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus, which is the quintessential global challenge requiring mutual comprehension and cooperation.”

These COVID-19 terms are available in the WIPO Pearl database, which contains nearly 200,000 terms in total on subjects ranging from biopesticides, chatbots and green chemistry to nanosatellites, quantum computing and virtual reality. The terms also exist in a separate stand-alone glossary on the WIPO Pearl website. The glossary is divided into topics and, within each topic, concepts are listed according to the relations among them. This allows related concepts to be viewed together and helps to understand how they are associated – something that would not be possible with an alphabetical listing.

The glossary also contains links to the full terminology record in WIPO Pearl for each concept, where definitions, multilingual equivalents, contexts illustrating term usage and meaning, and term reliability scores can be found, as well as “concept maps” which graphically and dynamically depict how each concept relates to other concepts.

The collection of COVID-19 terms is also linked to PATENTSCOPE: a one-click search launched either from the glossary or from the WIPO Pearl application (Linguistic Search or Concept Map Search) that allows any patents containing these terms, in any of the 10 languages, to be easily retrieved. A researcher could, for example, start with an English term and, by using the validated equivalents for the term in other languages, be able to retrieve relevant patents in up to nine other languages.

Since these COVID-19 terms are of particular relevance currently, WIPO has made them available for free download. Users may access a .pdf file containing the terms in all of the languages and a definition in English for each concept, or an .xml file that allows the collection of COVID-19 terminology to be integrated into other applications, such as computer-assisted translation software or data mining tools.

Seventy bilingual terminology records (200 terms) in the collection were provided by students at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. WIPO-PCT language experts provided the remaining 77 records in the collection and added 1,300 terms in different languages to ensure that all 147 concepts are provided in all 10 languages of WIPO Pearl. Further concepts will be added to the collection in the coming months.

More about WIPO Pearl

WIPO Pearl was launched in 2014 to promote accurate and consistent use of scientific and technical terms across the ten languages of publication of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO-administered International Patent System, making it easier to search and share scientific and technical knowledge across different languages. The database, developed by experienced WIPO language experts and terminologists, now contains over 190,000 terms. The interface is available in 10 languages and also in a mobile-friendly form.

Scientific and technical terms can be searched in 45 different language combinations, offering the possibility to search between European and Asian languages, as well as between any of these languages and Arabic. This makes WIPO Pearl unique amongst the current offering of language resources available freely on the Web. Knowledge-rich contexts are provided for each term to help illustrate what it means and how it is used.

Also unique to WIPO Pearl are Concept Maps, which allow the user to browse domain knowledge by exploring links between concepts. These links have been researched and manually entered by WIPO terminologists to show concepts that are broader or narrower in scope than other concepts. Users also have the option to exploit information displayed in subsets of Concept Maps – so-called Concept Paths – to conduct combined keyword searches in PATENTSCOPE, WIPO’s patent database. PATENTSCOPE can also be accessed directly from the hit-list of results obtained by conducting a traditional search by term in the Linguistic Search interface.

In addition to providing human-built Concept Maps, WIPO Pearl leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to generate so-called Concept Clouds – suggested new clusters of relations between concepts. WIPO Pearl is the first terminology database to feature such an innovation.

WIPO Pearl is also integrated with WIPO Translate, WIPO’s internally developed machine translation engine featuring innovative AI neural machine translation technology, so as to offer the user machine-translated suggestions when a term is not available in one of the target languages.

An ever-growing network of partners worldwide, including universities and government bodies, now helps to populate WIPO Pearl with new terms, whilst subject field experts in the partner institutions check the accuracy of terms in their field of specialization and raise the term reliability score.

The WIPO Pearl terminology database has added some 1,500 new COVID-19-related terms in 10 languages, helping innovators targeting new coronavirus treatments and diagnostics with a baseline set of terms and their multilingual equivalents. This advancement will foster international collaboration and promote easier access to information in patent documents and other public resources produced around the world.

From today, WIPO...

ESCAP

This Online repository provides access to written contributions submitted by participants to the Policy Hackathon on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and Other Trade Agreements. The contributions featured in this Online repository have been made available as received and are under the sole responsibility of their author(s). Upon submission, participants have declared that their contribution is their own autonomous work, that all the sources have been correctly cited and listed as references and that any eventual errors or inaccuracies are the fault of the authors. The contributions do not represent the views of the United Nations or that of any other Policy Hackathon organizing and participating institutions. The inclusion of the contributions in the online repository does not constitute an endorsement of the contents by the United Nations and Policy Hackathon organizers. The contributions are unedited work in progress willingly contributed by their authors during the Policy Hackathon and are publicly accessible for all to use at their own risk with reference to the author(s). It is hoped that this emerging body of knowledge will provide a useful basis and inspiration for trade policymakers and negotiators to develop regional and other trade agreements that can increase trade resilience in times of crisis and pandemic and support recovery and building back better. To make it easier to browse through, the contributions have been grouped according to different topics/categories. Contributions that have been identified by the Expert Group as standing out in terms of quality, relevance, comprehensiveness and/or originality are identified with a “🏆”. A brief overview of contributions is also available here.

This Online repository provides access to written contributions submitted by participants to the Policy Hackathon on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and Other Trade Agreements. The contributions featured in this Online repository have been made available as received and are under the sole responsibility of their author(s). Upon submission, participants have...

ECA

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday launched a new COVID-19 cross-border trade report urging governments on the continent to adopt and harmonize policies that will help continent strike an appropriate balance between curbing the spread of the virus and facilitating emergency and essential trade.

Titled Facilitating cross-border trade through a coordinated African response to COVID-19, the report says continued inefficiencies and disruptions to cross-border trade presented significant challenges for Africa’s fight against COVID-19, and risked holding back the continent’s progress towards the attainment of the sustainable development and goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Maintaining trade flows as much as possible during the pandemic will be crucial in providing access to essential food and much-needed medical items and in limiting negative impacts on jobs and poverty, said Mr. Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) that penned the report.

To curtail the rapid spread of the virus, African nations introduced lockdowns and various restrictions that negatively affected cross-border and transit freight transportation.

The border restrictions and regulations have helped minimize infections and deaths across the continent but had a negative impact on cross-border trade and economic activity, hindering both significantly.

The report recommends that African nations should cooperate and harmonize COVID-19 border regulations to reduce delays, while not undermining the safety of trade. It proposes fast tracking implementation of existing Regional Economic Community (REC) COVID-19 guidelines, including establishing regional coordinating committees with the primary task of addressing operational issues at national borders.

In addition, the report says regional efforts must also be coordinated at continental level through the African Union Commission. A common COVID-19 AU Protocol on trade and transport is needed given the overlap in membership of RECs and shared trade facilitation goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In developing such a protocol, the experiences and best practices of RECs need to be taken into account,” said Mr. Karingi during the launch.

A common African Union COVID-19 test certificate for truck drivers and crew members will be crucial to facilitate movement of essential personnel across borders with the least possible interference.

Amid the pandemic, African economies should not let COVID-19 undermine regional integration and must maintain the momentum and ambition of the AfCFTA process, said Mr. Karingi.

Panelists and participants agreed that digital solutions are crucial in helping continent address outstanding cross border trade issues for example electronic cargo tracking systems, electronic signatures and documents, and the use of mobile banking and payment systems to support safe and efficient trade.

“COVID-19 has increased the urgency for us to do better and find innovative solutions to facilitate safe and efficient cross-border trade. It will be important for Africa to maintain and upgrade these solutions post COVID-19, to lower trade costs, boost competitiveness, and support more resilient cross-border trade in the face of future shocks,” said Mr. Karingi.

For his part, Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Lovemore Bingandadi said COVID-19 lessons should be used to improve efficiencies in cross-border trade on the continent.

“Africa’s response could have been better had they been done at continental level when the pandemic struck. Nevertheless, it has given us an opportunity to address in a coordinated way longstanding cross-border trade challenges that we face,” he said.

Mr. Bingandadi emphasized continental solutions were the best way to deal with the border inefficiencies and cross-border trade issues, adding the AfCFTA would go a long way in helping address these.

UNCTAD’s Technology and Logistics Director, Shamika Sirimanne, for her part emphasized the importance of innovation and technology to fight the pandemic and in helping Africa building back better in the aftermath of the crisis.

“COVID-19 has shown us the need for information-sharing and use of technologies for coordinated responses in the area of trade and transport connectivity,” said Ms. Sirimanne.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday launched a new COVID-19 cross-border trade report urging governments on the continent to adopt and harmonize policies that will help continent strike an appropriate balance between curbing the spread of the virus and facilitating emergency and essential trade.

Titled Facilitating cross-border trade through a coordinated African response to COVID-19, the report...

ICAO
In her remarks today at the official opening of the final week of the Virtual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu underscored that information and communications technologies are critical to aviation’s role in global UN Sustainable Development Goal attainment, and to how air transport will build back better post-COVID-19.

“Increased air transport digitalization promotes critical efficiencies and capabilities which improve our sector’s capabilities as a catalyst for socio-economic and sustainability benefits,” Dr. Liu stated. “This is especially relevant given that ICAO-compliant air services and international connectivity are already improving global outcomes toward the achievement of 15 of the 17 SDGs.”

Summarizing the devastation COVID-19 is now wreaking on global air connectivity, Dr. Liu also strongly emphasized how digital capabilities will be critical to air transport’s post-pandemic recovery.

“Whether we are talking entirely new technologies, or new applications of existing technologies, digital, AR, and AI solutions are now at hand to permit us to pre-screen passengers and cargo more extensively than ever before, for both health and security risks, and with greater efficiency and less disruption,” Dr. Liu said. “They also provide the foundations for the next generation of autonomous aircraft, drones, and the transformations that Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) will lead to in terms of personal mobility, e-commerce, civilian and community services, and many other applications.”

Dr. Liu also reiterated that, with innovation and digitization set to play such an important role in how we restart and recover on a more sustainable path, and at an ever-increasing rate, ICAO is embracing it today as never before.

“We’re working to achieve greater flexibility, responsiveness, and efficiency where the assessment and rule-making on emerging technologies is concerned, and an important part of my message to you today is that you can count on us to be your committed and effective partner going forward in all things innovation related,” Dr. Liu commented. “We have a great deal we can accomplish together, and ICAO will continue to rely on the partnership and vision of the ITU as we progress together toward a greener, more sustainable, and more innovative digital future for coming generations.”

In her remarks today at the official opening of the final week of the Virtual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu underscored that information and communications technologies are critical to aviation’s role in global UN Sustainable Development Goal...
E-Residency

E-Residency is readymade for remote working entrepreneurs, so at a time when many people around the world are looking to start their own small businesses or shift to freelance work online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia’s groundbreaking programme is more relevant than ever. Having access to Estonia’s digital nation enables 70,000 e-residents from over 170 countries to run their businesses entirely online from anywhere.

What is e-Residency?

E-Residency is a digital identity issued by the Republic of Estonia to people outside its borders, which enables them to securely verify themselves online and access all tools needed to launch an online business.  E-residents can register an EU-based company within a day, digitally sign and encrypt documents and contracts in line with the highest EU standards, access a range of business banking and payment options, and declare and pay taxes online. Last but not least, they join a global community of like-minded remote entrepreneurs and startup founders from around the world.

The programme is especially attractive for location-independent entrepreneurs who want to set up a company based in the trusted, transparent business environment of Estonia and by extension the EU. E-residents run businesses in a range of sectors, including IT and digital marketing, consulting, translation, recruitment, and eCommerce. Like Christoph Huebner, originally from Germany, who runs his insurance startup while travelling around the world. Or Glasgow-based Vicky Brock, who set up her Estonian company to keep her business in the EU after Brexit. Read more e-resident stories on our blog.

How did COVID-19 impact e-Residency and e-residents?

Despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, e-Residency applications and access to Estonia’s e-services have been unaffected. E-residents have continued to access all digital services in the country, including the company registration portal, tax board website (EMTA), online banking, and more. Due to travel restrictions or border closures, some e-residents have at times faced disruptions in picking up their digital IDs, but we continue to work hard along with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to alleviate and address these.

The e-Residency team has also shifted our 2020 priorities and activities as a result of COVID-19 by focusing on how we can help e-resident entrepreneurs withstand the uncertain economic situation. This has involved transforming the way we interact with our community of e-residents, for example by offering more online events and webinars in lieu of physical meet-ups and helping raise the profile of e-resident businesses on our website, blog, and social media. COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for us to accelerate longer term projects and strategies to open up access to e-Residency to more people around the world, e.g. by expanding pickup locations and looking at how to make the pickup process more seamless.

In our covid impact survey, we learned that many e-resident entrepreneurs are also adapting their businesses, including by pivoting to new revenue streams, going virtual, finding new clients and markets, or helping those in need. The survey respondents confirmed that e-Residency has made it easier to undertake these activities during the crisis as it is ready made for running a borderless business remotely, supporting a lean and agile company setup, and focusing on creating value.

COVID-19 has also revealed that our community is full of good samaritans.  Every day, we hear inspiring stories about those using their skills for good, like Sri Lankan e-resident Alagan Mahalingam and his team at Expert Republic offering an all-in-one video platform for professionals to offer online consultations and Vicky Brock tackling the increase in online scams and misinformation created by the crisis through her company Vistalworks. Plus, we set up a community page for e-residents to volunteer their time and expertise for others doing it tough and were blown away with the response and the generosity of what was on offer.

How to apply?

It’s simple and quick to become an e-resident and join our 70,000-strong community. The first step is to apply online and pay the state fee. Your application will be checked by Estonia’s Police and Border Guard, which normally takes around 30 days. If approved, they will email you and let you know when your digital ID card and e-Residency kit is ready for pickup. Once you have your digital ID, you can establish your business and start taking advantage of all that Estonia’s e-services offer. Find out more and subscribe to our newsletter at the e-Residency website.

E-Residency is readymade for remote working entrepreneurs, so at a time when many people around the world are looking to start their own small businesses or shift to freelance work online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia’s groundbreaking programme is more relevant than ever. Having access to Estonia’s digital nation enables 70,000 e-residents from over...

WIPO

The COVID-19 pandemic is severely pressuring a long-building rise in worldwide innovation, likely hindering some innovative activities while catalyzing ingenuity elsewhere, notably in the health sector, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020.

The GII 2020’s theme asks Who Will Finance Innovation? A key question is how the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will impact start-ups, venture capital, and other traditional sources of innovation financing. Many governments are setting up emergency relief packages to cushion the impact of the lockdown and face the looming recession. But the GII 2020 advises that further rounds of support must prioritize and then broaden support for innovation, particularly for smaller enterprises and start-ups that are facing hurdles in accessing rescue packages.

“The rapid, worldwide spread of the coronavirus requires fresh thinking to ensure a shared victory over this quintessential global challenge,” says WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “Even as we all grapple with the immediate human and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments need to ensure that rescue packages are future oriented and support the individuals, research institutes, companies and others with innovative and collaborative new ideas for the post-COVID era. Innovations equal solutions.”

In its associated annual ranking of the world’s economies on innovation capacity and output, the GII shows year-on-year stability at the top, but a gradual eastward shift in the locus of innovation as a group of Asian economies – notably China, India, the Philippines and Viet Nam – have advanced considerably in the innovation ranking over the years.

Switzerland, Sweden, U.S., U.K and Netherlands lead the innovation ranking, with a second Asian economy – the Republic of Korea – joining the top 10 for the first time (Singapore is number 8). The top 10 is dominated by high-income countries.

Global rankings

All 2020 rankings

  1. Switzerland (Number 1 in 2019)
  2. Sweden (2)
  3. United States of America (3)
  4. United Kingdom (5)
  5. Netherlands (4)
  6. Denmark (7)
  7. Finland (6)
  8. Singapore (8)
  9. Germany (9)
  10. Republic of Korea (11)
  11. Hong Kong (China) (13)
  12. France (16)
  13. Israel (10)
  14. China (14)
  15. Ireland (12)
  16. Japan (15)
  17. Canada (17)
  18. Luxembourg (18)
  19. Austria (21)
  20. Norway (19)

The GII 2020 in Motion


Video: This short video highlights the key takeaways from the GII 2020.

A shifting innovation landscape

The geography of innovation continues to shift, the GII 2020 shows. Over the years, India, China, the Philippines, and Viet Nam are the economies with the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over time. All four are now in the top 50.

The top-performing economies in the GII are still almost exclusively from the high-income group, with China (14th) remaining the only middle-income economy in the GII top 30. Malaysia (33rd) follows. India (48th) and the Philippines (50th) make it to the top 50 for the first time. The Philippines achieves its best rank ever—in 2014, it ranked 100th. Heading the lower middle-income group, Viet Nam ranks 42nd for the second consecutive year— from 71st in 2014. Indonesia (85th) joins the top 10 of this group. Tanzania tops the low-income group (88th).

“As shown by China, India and Viet Nam, the persistent pursuit of innovation pays off over time,” says Former Dean and Professor of Management at Cornell University Soumitra Dutta. “The GII has been used by governments of those countries and others around the world to improve their innovation performance.”

New findings for the GII 2020

  • The COVID-19 crisis hit the innovation landscape at a time when innovation was flourishing. In 2018, research and development (R&D) spending grew by 5.2%, i.e., significantly faster than global gross domestic product (GDP) growth, after rebounding strongly from the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Venture capital (VC) and the use of intellectual property (IP) were at an all-time high.
  • In the context of the GII 2020 theme Who Will Finance Innovation?, one of the GII findings is that the money to fund innovative ventures is drying up. VC deals are in sharp decline across North America, Asia, and Europe. The impact of this shortage in innovation finance will be uneven, with the negative effects felt more heavily by early-stage VCs, by R&D-intensive start-ups, and in countries that are not typically VC hotspots.
Cyclical Research and Development Investments, 2001-2020
  • While the impacts of the pandemic on the science and innovation systems will take time to unfold, there are positive signs of increased international collaboration in science. At the same time, there are concerns of major research projects being disrupted and international closure in the pursuit of innovation.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has already catalyzed innovation in many new and traditional sectors, such as health, education, tourism and retail.

“There are now genuine risks to international openness and collaboration on innovation. Faced with unprecedented challenges, whether sanitary, environmental, economic or social, the world needs to combine efforts and resources to ensure the continuous financing of innovation,” says INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices Bruno Lanvin.

GII 2020 regional innovation leaders

Region / rank Country GII 2020 global rank
Northern America
1 United States of America 3
2 Canada 17
Sub-Saharan Africa
1 South Africa* 60
2 Kenya 86
3 United Republic of Tanzania 88
Latin America and the Caribbean
1 Chile 54
2 Mexico 55
3 Costa Rica 56
Central and Southern Asia
1 India 48
2 Iran, Islamic Republic of 67
3 Kazakhstan 77
Northern Africa and Western Asia
1 Israel 13
2 Cyprus 29
3 United Arab Emirates 34
South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania
1 Singapore 8
2 Republic of Korea 10
3 Hong Kong, China 11
Europe
1 Switzerland 1
2 Sweden 2
3 United Kingdom 4
*Mauritius ranks 52nd this year. However, the 2020 rank for Mauritius has wide significant data variability as compared to last year. A mix of new data availability, data revisions at the source and performance effects explain Mauritius’ rank movements.

Northern America

The two economies in Northern America, the U.S. and Canada, rank in the top 20 in this year’s GII.
The U.S. maintains its 3rd position this year, thanks to its strong performance across all GII areas. It is the first economy worldwide in the GII indicators that capure the quality of innovation, with its excellent universities and high-quality scientific publications. The U.S. hosts the largest number (25) of top science and technology clusters in the world, led by the San Jose-San Francisco cluster.

Europe

Sixteen of the GII leaders in the top 25 are European countries, with seven of them ranking in the top 10.
Switzerland remains the world’s leader in innovation for the 10th consecutive year. A consistent producer of high-quality innovation outcomes, it improves in patents and venture capital deals.
A solid human capital and research system, coupled with a sophisticated market with innovative firms, put Sweden in the second spot for the second consecutive year.

Due to a combination of performance improvements and model changes, France is among the top 20 economies that saw the most impressive rank increase this year, taking the 12th position, its best GII rank since 2009. It ranks 5th in the new indicator global brand value and is in the top 10 in R&D-intensive global companies, quality of scientific publications, and research talent in business enterprises. France hosts five of the world top 100 science and technology clusters, with Paris ranking 10th this year.

South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania

The two most innovative economies in this region – Singapore (8) and the Republic of Korea (10) – rank in the top 10. China retains its 14th position, after its rapid rise in recent years.

China has established itself as an innovation leader, with high ranks in important metrics including patents, utility models, trademarks, industrial designs, and creative goods exports. It boasts 17 of the top science and technology clusters worldwide – with Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou and Beijing in the 2nd and 4th spots respectively.

The Republic of Korea moves into the top 10 group of the GII for the first time. It improves its ranks in various indicators, including environmental performance, patent families, quality of scientific publications, and high-technology manufactures, while retaining top 3 positions in R&D expenditures, researchers, and PCT patents. Three of its clusters make it to the top 100, with Seoul ranking 3rd worldwide.

In the region, Malaysia (33) and the Philippines (50) move up the ranking thanks to its first-class tertiary education system, sophisticated capital market, and a vibrant private sector. Malaysia excels in high-technology exports and creative goods exports. The Philippines enters the top 50 this year, with top 10 ranks in utility models, productivity growth, high-technology exports and imports, and ICT services exports.

Central and Southern Asia

India (48) retains the highest rank in the region, followed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (67).
Moving up four positions since last year, India becomes the third most innovative lower middle-income economy in the world, thanks to newly available indicators and improvements in various areas of the GII. It ranks in the top 15 in indicators such as ICT services exports, government online services, graduates in science and engineering, and R&D-intensive global companies. Thanks to universities such as the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, and its top scientific publications, India is the lower middle-income economy with the highest innovation quality.

This year Uzbekistan (93) enters the GII rankings and ranks 4th in its region, assisted by better data coverage. It ranks in the top 10 worldwide in three indicators: graduates in science and engineering, ease of starting a business, and capital investment.

Northern Africa and Western Asia

Israel (13), Cyprus (29), and the United Arab Emirates (34) are the top three economies in this region.
Israel is the world leader in several key indicators such as researchers, R&D expenditures, and university-industry research collaboration. Thanks to these investments, Israel remains a top innovation player, especially in ICT services exports.

Saudi Arabia (66) and Jordan (81) are among the economies that saw a significant improvement in their ranking this year, due to a combination of performance improvements and model changes. Saudi Arabia takes the the 3rd place in ease of protecting minority investors and ranks 13th in the state of cluster development. Jordan improves in variables related to the quality of its credit market, and in particular in ease of getting credit, domestic credit to private sector, and venture capital deals.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Chile (54) ranks first in the region, followed by Mexico (55) and Costa Rica (56).
BrazilMexico, and Argentina host global R&D companies and are among the top 10 middle-income economies in the quality of innovation. ChileUruguay, and Brazil produce high levels of scientific and technical articles, with Brazil making an impact also in patents.

The region performs well in the new indicator global brands value: MexicoBrazilColombia, and Argentina are all outperformers in this indicator, having many more valuable brands than their income levels would predict.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritius (52), South Africa (60), Kenya (86) and the United Republic of Tanzania (88) are leading this region.
With high-quality institutions and a dynamic market, Mauritius is the 9th most innovative upper middle-income economy in the world. However, the 2020 rank for Mauritius has wide significant data variability as compared to last year. A mix of new data availability, data revisions at the source and performance effects explain Mauritius’ rank movements.

A sophisticated internal market is also the strongest area of South Africa, ranking first in market capitalization and ninth in domestic credit to the private sector. Kenya is among the economies holding the record of being innovation achievers for ten consecutive years, thanks to top 5 rankings in indicators such as ease of getting credit and R&D expenditures financed by abroad.

Tanzania benefits from a relatively well interlinked innovation system and good international connectivity and ranks in the top 25 in cost of redundancy dismissal and gross capital investment.

Rwanda (91) significantly improves its rankings this year, thanks partly by improved data coverage. It ranks in the top 15 in ease of getting credit, microfinance loans, and productivity growth.

About the Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index 2020 (GII), in its 13th edition this year, is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations).

Published annually since 2007, the GII is now a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world. Policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders use the GII to evaluate progress on a continual basis.  The study benefits from the experience of its Knowledge Partners: Confederation of Indian Industry, Dassault Systèmes – The 3DEXPERIENCE Company, and the National Confederation of Industry (CNI)—Brazil, as well as of an Advisory Board of international experts.

The core of the GII Report consists of a ranking of world economies’ innovation capabilities and results. Recognizing the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, and the need for a broad  vision of innovation applicable to developed and emerging economies, the GII includes indicators that go beyond the traditional measures of innovation, such as the level of research and development.

To support the global innovation debate, to guide polices and to highlight good practices, metrics are required to assess innovation and related policy performance. The GII creates an environment in which innovation factors are under continual evaluation, including the following features:

  • 131 country/economy profiles, including data, ranks, and strengths and weaknesses
  • 80 data tables for indicators from over 30 international public and private sources, of which 58 are hard data, 18 composite indicators, and 4 survey questions
  • A transparent and replicable computation methodology including 90% confidence intervals for each index ranking (GII, output and input sub-indices) and an analysis of factors affecting year-on-year changes in rankings

The GII 2020 is calculated as the average of two sub-indices. The Innovation Input Sub-Index gauges elements of the national economy which embody innovative activities grouped in five pillars: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. The Innovation Output Sub-Index captures actual evidence of innovation results, divided in two pillars: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.

The index is submitted to an independent statistical audit by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

The COVID-19 pandemic is severely pressuring a long-building rise in worldwide innovation, likely hindering some innovative activities while catalyzing ingenuity elsewhere, notably in the health sector, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020.

The GII 2020’s theme asks Who Will Finance Innovation? A key question is how the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will impact start-ups, venture capital, and...

EIF

Urgent digital transformation is needed to create safe and secure cross border ecommerce customs clearance in the world’s poorest countries

Over the last few months, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions around the world have had a dramatic impact on cross border ecommerce, including a reduction in the volumes of international parcels postal operators are managing.

Ecommerce success globally had meant a flourishing of packages sent across borders, but coronavirus has caused a decline due to disruptions in transport capacity, the closure of borders and the impact the pandemic has had on consumer trust. Despite this, it is likely that global parcel supply chain infrastructure will be restored quickly by postal operators, transport companies and customs administrations.

This recovery and the return to higher and higher levels of mailings will require urgent digital transformation, especially considering an upcoming deadline for electronic communications on items being sent globally by post. And, action is needed to ensure some countries aren’t left behind.

The regulatory landscape is changing rapidly

The COVID-19 pandemic is only one of the elements currently impacting the growth of cross border ecommerce. This year and 2021 will see huge changes in the regulatory landscape for the international exchange of low-value parcels and packets through the global postal network, supported mainly by designated postal operators of Universal Postal Union (UPU) member countries. UPU members work to facilitate communications and social and economic inclusion through the provision of a universal service.

Electronic advising ahead of the sending of postal items will be critical in meeting legal requirements taking effect in 2020/21, such as those established by the United States of America (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act), China, the Russian Federation and the European Union (Union Customs Code, Import Control System 2). Upcoming security requirements include sending pre-loading advance cargo information (PLACI) before an item leaves the country of origin, confirming the correct export processing to destination customs and transport airlines, and possibly sending security alerts back to the country of origin.

Bringing posts and customs together

The UPU’s Postal Technology Centre created the Customs Declaration System (CDS) that is in use by over 100 member countries of the UPU. The CDS system helps streamline the postal customs clearance process by enabling postal operators and customs administrators to exchange electronic advance data (EAD), perform data-driven risk analysis to support package selection and screening, and expedite the calculation of required duties and taxes.

On the customs front, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed ASYCUDA World, an automated customs management system currently used by 101 countries. The new data standard improves data quality and simplifies communications across the supply chain, thus facilitating trade growth, improving cargo security, modernising customs operations and fostering participation in global commerce through the submission of EAD for air cargo shipments. It also facilitates customs risk assessments for air cargo shipments and improves compliance with security regula­tions.

Link with the Trade Facilitation Agreement

The World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) outlines member countries’ obliga­tions in terms of reducing trade frictions and red tape, and helps to improve the access of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to global trade.

This year and 2021 will see huge changes in the regulatory landscape for the international exchange of low-value parcels and packets through the global postal network.

The implementation of many of those obligations, such as pre-arrival processing and advance ruling, can be facilitated by existing UPU regulations and solutions. The UPU actively supports and accelerates the implementation of the TFA by postal operators, customs and other trade agencies through its information technology solutions like the abovementioned CDS or the International Postal System (IPS) used by postal operators to dispatch and process international mail items.

Many of these obligations are related to collaborative activities between customs and postal operators such as the single window (TFA article 10.4), pre-arrival processing (TFA article 7.1), advance rulings (TFA article 3) and acceptance of copies (TFA article 10.2). Cooperation between customs and postal operators can help to reduce trade frictions.

Helping least developed countries comply

With the growth of ecommerce and the resulting “parcelisation of trade”, a tsunami of packages is being sent across borders, and postal and customs administrations need to develop new methods to facilitate trade, especially for MSMEs.

To do this, the UPU, in cooperation with UNCTAD, launched an effort this year in 22 least developed countries (LDCs) to facilitate the clearance of postal packages through the exchange of pre-arrival/pre-departure information between postal operators and customs administrations, enabling the use of data to enhance postal and customs operations for more efficient postal operations and more effective customs clearance.

The UPU, in cooperation with UNCTAD, launched an effort this year in 22 least developed countries (LDCs) to facilitate the clearance of postal packages through the exchange of pre-arrival/pre-departure information between postal operators and customs administrations.

The overall objective is to increase border efficiency and reduce red tape and friction in the cross-border shipment of postal items, often burdened by lengthy paper-driven processes and sluggish physical inspections performed without the support of data analysis risk engines. This builds on previous successful UNCTAD and UPU projects, now with the aim to rep­licate that success in LDCs by January 2021. The work will seek to reduce enduring traditional challenges such as illicit trade, illicit financial flows, intellectual property right infringement, counterfeiting, and piracy, to name a few.

The UPU and UNCTAD have identified the 22 LDCs in which the national interfaces between UPU’s CDS and UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA can be established quickly to address the urgent need for posts and customs to exchange EAD (see Table 1). The goal is to:

·       Enable an efficient customs clearance process and the timely delivery of postal items;

·       Improve visibility, timelines and quality of service for items in the postal network;

·       Ensure the effective and accurate collection of leviable duties and taxes, and the efficient implementa­tion of de minimis thresholds.

UNCTAD’s e-trade readiness assessments are supporting this work with information about where ASYCUDA is operational and what challenges and opportunities exist in each country’s ecommerce context, while the UPU’s operational readiness for ecommerce project identifies which LDCs need to install CDS and which ones only need to interface with ASYCUDA. Proof of concept pilots are planned for Vanuatu, and Cambodia was recently added to the list.

Table 1: LDCs that need CDS and/or ASYCUDA

The completion of this project will improve trade facilitation and inclusion to and from these countries, by enabling individuals and small businesses to exchange goods internationally through the global postal supply chain, while introducing efficient customs clearance processes and supporting the timely delivery of postal items.

Urgent digital transformation is needed to create safe and secure cross border ecommerce customs clearance in the world’s poorest countries

Over the last few months, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions around the world have had a dramatic impact on cross border ecommerce, including a reduction in the volumes of international parcels postal operators are managing.

Ecommerce success globally had meant a flourishing...

ECLAC

A new special report by the UN regional commission suggests a basic basket of Information and Communications Technologies for all households, at an annual cost of less than 1% of GDP.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) urged today for ensuring and universalizing connectivity and the affordability of digital technologies to address the many impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the region. To this end, it proposed five lines of action that include building an inclusive digital society, driving a productive transformation, fostering digital trust and security, strengthening regional digital cooperation, and moving towards a new governance model to ensure a “digital welfare state” that would promote equality, protect the population’s economic, social and labor rights, guarantee the secure use of data, and fuel progressive structural change.

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, unveiled during a press conference the institution’s Special Report COVID-19 No. 7, entitled Universalizing access to digital technologies to address the consequences of COVID-19, which proposes to the region’s countries ensuring a basic basket of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) made up of a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet and a connection plan for households that are not connected, at an annual cost of less than 1% of GDP.

The report presented today highlights the importance that digital technologies have had for the functioning of the economy and society during the crisis prompted by the coronavirus disease pandemic. Progress that was expected to take years to materialize has been made in a matter of months. However, access gaps affect the right to health, education and work, and can also widen structural gaps and increase socioeconomic inequalities.

“The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have taken measures to encourage the use of technological solutions and to ensure the continuity of telecommunications services. However, the scope of these actions is limited by gaps in access to and use of these technologies and by connection speeds,” Alicia Bárcena said upon presenting the report.

According to the document, in 2019, 66.7% of the region’s inhabitants had an Internet connection. The remaining third had limited or no access to digital technologies due to their economic and social status, particularly their age and location. In 12 countries of the region, the percentage of households in the highest income quintile (quintile V) that have an Internet connection is 81% on average, while the figures for households in the first and second quintiles are 38% and 53%, respectively.

The differences in connectivity between urban and rural areas are significant. In the region, 67% of urban households are connected to the Internet, while in rural areas only 23% are. In terms of age groups, young people and older adults have less connectivity: 42% of those under 25 years of age and 54% of people older than 66 are not connected to the Internet.

The report adds that the low degree of affordability reinforces the exclusion of lower-income households. The cost of mobile and fixed broadband services for the population in the first income quintile accounts for 14% and 12% of their income, respectively. This is around 6 times the reference threshold of 2% of income recommended by the United Nations Broadband Commission.

The study reveals that mobility data during the first months of lockdown show a world that was paralyzed physically, but not virtually. Website traffic and the use of applications for teleworking, online education or distance learning, and online shopping reveal a significant increase in the use of digital solutions. Between the first and second quarters of 2020, the use of teleworking solutions surged by 324% while distance education rose more than 60%.

However, the use of distance learning solutions is only possible for those with an Internet connection and devices that enable access, and in Latin America 46% of children between 5 and 12 years of age live in households that have no connectivity. Households’ access to digital devices is also unequal in the region: while between 70% and 80% of students from the highest socioeconomic levels have laptops in their homes, only between 10% and 20% of students in the lowest income quintiles have these devices.

“The difference between the highest and lowest economic strata affects the right to education and deepens socioeconomic inequalities. To ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote learning opportunities throughout the education cycle, not only must connectivity and digital infrastructure be improved, but also the digital skills of teachers and professors, and educational content must be adapted to the digital environment,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary emphasized.

With regard to the percentage of jobs that can be shifted over to teleworking, the report notes that this is positively linked to the level of per capita GDP and to lower degrees of labor informality. In Europe and the United States, nearly 40% of workers can work from home, whereas in the case of Latin America, ECLAC estimates that around 21.3% of employed persons could engage in teleworking.

The document highlights that the Internet is mitigating the impact of the crisis on companies. It states that between March and April 2020, the number of business websites jumped by 800% in Colombia and Mexico and around 360% in Brazil and Chile. In June 2020, the online presence of retail companies surged by 431% compared with June 2019.

Finally, the report indicates that the post-pandemic period will be characterized by new demand patterns based on online channels that will require efforts by countries and the private sector to deliver better services. Meanwhile, new supply patterns will be based on flexibility, local proximity and response capacity.

“Productivity and structural change will remain central to development. The region must move towards more diversified, homogeneous and integrated productive systems that incorporate technology at all stages in order to increase productivity, competitiveness and productive inclusion, which will lead to higher employment levels and wages,” Alicia Bárcena concluded.

A new special report by the UN regional commission suggests a basic basket of Information and Communications Technologies for all households, at an annual cost of less than 1% of GDP.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) urged today for ensuring and universalizing connectivity and the affordability of digital technologies to address the many impacts of the...