SAARC looks to go high tech to boost regional trade : Minister

Oct 15, 2018 (LBO) – Despite low trade within the region, there is potential for using information and communication technologies to contribute to social and economic progress across South Asian countries, Minister of Industry and Commerce said.

“Despite the challenges, the e-commerce and related sectors in the South Asian countries offer huge business and investment opportunities,” Rishard  Bathiudeen, minister of Industry and Commerce told an international conference in Sri Lanka.

By international standards the e-commerce sector is in its early stage in South Asia but it is growing at a fast pace and provides a profitable and untapped market for businesses and investors within and across the region.

The share of trade taking place between South Asian countries is only 5 percent in comparison to South Asia’s overall trade with the world at 20 percent.

“The need of the hour is for countries in the region to embrace e-commerce fully as it will enhance their economic and social development,” he said.

“Inadequate infrastructure acts as a major obstacle for e-commerce in this region. The governments need to invest in legal financial logistical and telecommunication infrastructure which is the backbone of any e-commerce initiative.”

The Minister was addressing the opening session of “SAARC CCI’s Regional Workshop on E-Commerce” by Islamabad based SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SAARC CCI) at Mt Lavinia Hotel, recently.

The interdisciplinary, high profile event explored the prospects of e-commerce as a medium of trade in the region was joined by South Asia Regional Director of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) Ronald Meinardus, Country Representative of FNF Ms Sagarica Delgoda, President of SAARC CCI Ruwan Edirisinghe, SAARC CCI’s former Senior VP Nawaz Rajabdeen, Secretary General of SAARC CCI Ajith Perera, and more than 20 representatives from SAARC countries.

These Colombo sessions looked at existing strategies, user experience, discovery, and metrics in current e-commerce business models in the South Asian region and beyond.

In 2015 the Sri Lanka e-commerce sector grew by a mere one per cent and is now expected to grow by four per cent in the coming years.

The total revenue from Sri Lankan E-commerce sector was estimated at US 8 million dollars in 2016. Sri Lankan e-commerce experts now say that it will grow to US 4 billion dollars by 2020.