#UNCTAD14 Short Notes – Day 3: @rirojeremy

Unctad.jpgMy day 3 at UNCTAD14 was an exceptional one! I had the opportunity to network with a few very important people whose names I will not disclose for security reasons J

Later in the evening I found one lost friend of mine and also made a new awesome friend too. The stunning moment was having a chat with these two friends (both younger than me) and discovering just how much I do not know on matters diplomacy, international policy formulation and all the lobbying that goes into it. The networking was meant to be a 30 minutes catch-up but ended up being a 4 hours intellectual intercourse on matters international trade & diplomacy, careers and life. I was meant to get home by 7pm but we left the Youth Forum Tent at KICC at around 10pm; intellectually nourished but physically exhausted! Under such circumstances, my client work had to take precedence over this blog which should have been published yesterday.

Empowering consumer and fostering competition to transform markets

Earlier in the morning I arrived and went straight to my first session on empowering consumers and fostering competition to transform markets. Key take away from this forum was that free markets enhance competition and give the customers a wider choice of goods and services. The increased consumer choice then links back to improved quality from the competing suppliers. However, it was noted that for customers to make informed choices, they need to be educated and made aware of their choices; as well as be protected against fraud from the competing suppliers.

An academician Mr. Sothi Rachagan who is the Vice Chancellor of Nilai University in Malaysia sought to expound the differences and overlaps between consumer protection and competition. In his submission he noted that the two are very different in that in most cases consumers especially at the bottom of the pyramid are irrational decision makers while the competitors are in most cases rational business decision makers. In addition, under the competition law, all the intermediaries along the value chain are considered to be consumers; whereas under the consumer protection law, it is the end customer who is regarded as the consumer. Nevertheless, he noted that they overlap in that consumers activate competition from one end and are beneficiaries of the same on the other end.

In light of the globalization of trade, there was a concern that consumer protection laws were still national in their jurisdiction hence posing a risk in terms of litigation that arise from cross border transactions. It was agreed that UNCTAD has a role to play in helping to harmonize these consumer protection laws at the international level then support their adoption at national levels. Another key concern was the fact that trade is moving to online platforms and consumers are not protected enough when buying goods and services from such platforms and therefore there is a need to also rethink our consumer protection laws to suit our digitized economies.

Youth session on jobs and innovation

This was a must attend first because on the panel we had an entrepreneurship icon Dr. Manu Chandaria, the UN Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi and our own Ms. Koby Ndung’u representing the ladies and the Kenyan Youth. Moderating the session was a man who needs no introduction, one Mr.  Raphael Obonyo. We focused on youth inclusion in the decision making processes as well as youths getting into entrepreneurship as a way to create more jobs and avoid the vicious cycle of unemployment.

Key take away was that there are 3 spaces which include: invited spaces, claimed spaces and closed spaces. In the invited spaces you have no choice but to follow protocol; in the claimed spaces you organize your own space and claim your rightful position there and finally in the closed spaces, that is where key decisions are made and you locked out! Youths need to get to these closed spaces in order to influence and shape the world we want; because as I said on my Day 2 blog, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Simply meaning that it is either you are in the closed spaces influencing policy in your favor or you are the one being compromised in order for those at the table to benefit!

Dr. Manu Chandaria challenged all the youths that no one will ever open for them the closed space to enter. It is a big boys club where members are invites only and they have the muscle to push you out at their pleasure. Nevertheless, he also urged the youths not to just sit and watch: we need to push ourselves if we want to be pushed! This principle, he said applies both in business, jobs and in joining governments and other international policy formulation bodies to get the voice of the youths heard.

Raphael Obonyo gave us a short story about a grasshopper from West Africa; but we shall talk about it some other day. Bottom line is; do not let a mere grasshopper determine the fate of your life – if it grows weary in the circle of doom, grab it and throw it in the circle of a bright future!

High Level Round table on investment and enterprise development

In this session government ministers from different countries gave their status updates on what they are doing to foster investment and enterprise development within their own local economies. Much was said but what I gathered as a more practical and interesting update was from Mr. Sujeewa Senasignhe, the State Minister of International Trade in Sri Lanka. He said that in their country he has initiated a women empowerment project whereby in every village they pick 200 women and train them on technology. His goal is to equip them with skills they can use to be up to date and do business in a digitized economy. This perfectly fitted in with a previous session where we discussed e-commerce and the fact that trade is moving online hence small enterprises mostly owned by women and youths need to find their space there too.

There being no other business to transact in the Amphitheatre, I left at 6:30pm for the Youth Forum Tent to network; and obviously you know I left there at around 10pm after meeting my two charming young intellectuals.

“Tomorrow is another day, as the clock keeps ticking away, time is so precious and so I say” – Don Carlos



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