The World Bank and the IFC - the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, on March 1 held the first Conference on Elevating Global Access through E-Commerce (E-GATE) in Tajikistan with support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO); the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); and the Switzerland State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The World Bank Tajikistan Country Office says the conference brought together prominent e-commerce stakeholders not only from Tajikistan but also from the neighboring countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  The event attracted participation from esteemed global counterparts, including renowned firms, policymakers, and international e-commerce giants like Amazon, Alibaba, Lenovo, Coursera, VISA, Uzum Group, the Universal Postal Union, and the Central Bank of Brazil, among others. 

Additionally, the conference featured demo sessions where Tajikistan-based companies like Alif, Babilon, Obbo, and Mavsim showcased their innovative solutions.

The conference partners included Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of the Republic of Tajikistan; Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of the Republic of Tajikistan; Agency of Innovations and Digital Technologies under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan; State Unitary Enterprise “Smart City Dushanbe”; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); International Trade Centre (ITC); Interdepartmental Committee on Economic Programming; Aga Khan Foundation; Public Fund Civil Internet Policy Initiative; National Association of Small and Medium Businesses of Tajikistan; E-commerce Participants Association of Tajikistan; and Association of Microfinance Organizations of Tajikistan.

Speaking at the conference, Ozan Sevimli, the World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan said, “Recognizing the pivotal role e-commerce plays in modern economies, the World Bank is actively supporting Tajikistan in its journey to develop appropriate platforms, including through the E-GATE program. With the E-GATE program, we offer the Tajik small and medium enterprises highly valuable memberships in global B2B e-commerce platforms to enjoy market access that was deprived offline, provide technical support to the government on drafting enabling legislation, and channel global knowledge to Tajik e-sellers through capacity building activities."

The conference reportedly marked signing of a number of important memoranda of cooperation, which are set to further foster collaboration between various associations, including between: the National Association of Small and Medium Businesses of Tajikistan and the Association of Sellers of Uzbekistan; the E-commerce Participants Association of Tajikistan and the Association of E-commerce of Uzbekistan; the Association of Microfinance Organizations of Tajikistan and the Fintech Association of Uzbekistan.

The conference's overarching goal was to facilitate knowledge and resource exchange among small and medium enterprises in Tajikistan, as well as with regional and global players in the E-commerce ecosystem.  Through policy dialogues addressing crucial aspects such as digital connectivity, logistics, digital skills, payment systems, and regulatory frameworks, the conference laid the groundwork for productive relationships between Tajikistan and global resources.  This event is expected to serve as the initial step in establishing conducive conditions, implementing follow-up policies, and unlocking investment opportunities in the e-commerce sector.

It is to be noted that over the past decade, global e-commerce has been expanding at an average rate of 20% a year as brick-and-mortar shops have languished.  By 2024, global retail e-commerce sales were estimated to total up to US$6 trillion worldwide, having a higher value than the GDP of either Germany or Japan.

E-commerce in Central Asia is starting to serve as a tool to: 1) find global consumers for “made-in-Central-Asia” products; 2) integrate and upgrade traditional supply chains; and (3) achieve inclusive growth and poverty reduction by creating accessible jobs for vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and persons with disabilities.

This is because e-commerce overrides the region’s landlocked geography and engages its young, tech-savvy labor force.

This is especially important for Tajikistan, which has the youngest and fastest growing population in the region.  On December 24, 2022, the country adopted the Law “On Electronic Commerce”.  The Law seeks to protect the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and organizations engaged in e-commerce and ensures the free operation of e-commerce in the country.