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Experts call for commerce regulations

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – Experts are calling on regional governments to develop standards and regulations that will help create an enabling environment that supports the growth of e-commerce in East Africa. 

The experts were speaking at an e-commerce meet organised by The Information Systems Audit and Control Association, ISACA, Kenya Chapter, which brought together key stakeholders including banks, mobile operators and regulators – into an open forum to discuss the underlying threats and opportunities of e-commerce in East Africa. 

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Dr Bitange Ndemo said at the opening of the two-day conference that the Kenyan Government had put in place the necessary infrastructure to spur the growth of e-commerce and was looking keenly looking into relevant regulatory infrastructure in consultation with other regional governments.

“The growth of mobile banking and intense competition in the banking industry in Kenya and East Africa at large had created a growing need to ensure systems are reined in by controls that meet business objectives. As a government, we are prepared to fully embrace e-commerce and benefit from this e-commerce to help create employment and reduce poverty among our youth,” said Dr Ndemo.

Dr Ndemo noted that even though e-commerce can provide many benefits, there are many potential issues arising from its use like data integrity and security, and moral issue. He added that proper addressing system is needed to help develop e-commerce in the region.

East African Community Deputy Secretary General for Productive and Social Sectors, Jean Claude Nsengiyumva said the East African Community regional integration framework had succeeded in promoting free trade of goods and services through the EAC Customs Union and Common Market Protocols.

“The Conference is in line with the second pillar of the East African Community Integration Process, namely the Common Market which was adopted by the Heads of States in November 2009 and came into effect from July 1.  East Africans are going to enjoy progressively free movement of goods, of persons, of labour, capital, services and a right of establishment and residence across the region under the EAC Common Market,” Mr Nsengiyumva said.

He continued: “To facilitate the movement of capital and services in the financial sector, a number of reforms are necessary in the policy side, the legal and regulatory environment side.  The EAC through the Monetary Affairs Committee (MAC) which is composed by the 5 EAC Central Bank Governors has made tremendous progress in addressing some of these challenges. One case in point is the on-going project to establish the East African Payment System (EAPS) which will link the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems of the 5 EAC Partner States. The EAPS will drastically reduce the time for processing cross border payments which are currently not only very costly but also take not less than 21 days.”

ISACA Kenya Chapter Chairman Roy Akalah also noted that the ratification of the East Africa Common Market protocol had created enormous opportunity for the growth of e-commerce in the region.

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“It is for these reasons that ISACA Kenya has convened a two day regional conference bringing together industry professionals and regulators to chart the way forward especially on the strengthening of the policy and regulatory framework on e-commerce which will support continued growth and expansion of trade and business within the region. It is important for key stakeholders to understand the various strategies to mitigate these risks while at the same time implementing recognized governance models,” Mr Akalah said.

He noted that it was important for the industry to understand the risks and effects of this new phenomenon that is rapidly becoming the core of the East African economy as more people embrace e-transactions.

“Unlike developed economies, these technologies are actually leapfrogging older technologies and creating challenges unseen elsewhere in the world and therefore proper regulatory framework is necessary to help check on any adverse effect of the adoption of such technologies in trade,” said Mr Akalah.

The conference is being organised with support from the USAID Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program (COMPETE) in partnership with the Kenya School of Monetary Studies. USAID COMPETE is working with ISACA to promote regional standards for e-commerce including adoption of COBIT, ISACA’s best practices for IT management, and ISO 27002 standards for IT governance and information security management within the EAC. In addition, ISACA Kenya has collaborated with key information security experts from around the world and the region to provide possible solutions to these problems.

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