Brian Bieron of eBay’s Public Policy Lab participated in a panel discussion on Africa small business trade at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Washington, DC. The annual Forum brings together senior government officials from the United States and 40 Sub-Saharan African AGOA-eligible countries to discuss ways to boost economic cooperation and trade between the United States and Africa. The panel, titled, “Facilitating U.S.-Africa Trade Through e-Commerce”, focused on the important role ecommerce can have on U.S.-African trade and the creation of policies that provide a solid foundation for e-commerce to grow beyond borders, especially for small businesses. Representatives from the South African government, U.S. Small Business Administration, USAID, and Business Alliance on e-Trade Development also appeared on the panel.
Brian touched on how the online commerce platform enables a new breed of enterprises: Small, Global, Remote and Independent; and, he discussed how the online commerce platform model of trade extends access to economic opportunities to small enterprises wherever located, and not the least to those in emerging, developing and remote areas, who have been the most excluded from global trade. This “platform-based” model of trade, which eBay refers to as the Global Empowerment Network, combines the Internet, commerce platforms, payments platforms, and logistics platforms. Brian highlighted how the eBay Public Policy Lab’s in-depth research has revealed that nearly every micro and small enterprise accessing the Global Empowerment Network via eBay is an exporter and they are exporting to numerous markets across multiple continents. Brian also discussed the challenges surrounding micro and small business exporting and made the case against the taxation of small, independent, remote retailers as if they were local merchants - who gain meaningful benefits from their local business operations.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law in May 2000 and was extended in 2015 by 10 years to 2025. The objectives of the legislation include the expansion and deepening of the trade and investment relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa, to encourage economic growth and development as well as regional integration, and to help facilitate the integration of Sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy.