Digital technologies and trade

Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

One of the key objectives of the EIF Strategic Plan (2019-2022) is to help least-developed countries (LDCs) improve technology use in producing goods and providing services in global value chains. To this end, the EIF works with LDCs to facilitate their access to the technologies and skills they need, including e-commerce infrastructure.


The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) is an Aid for Trade programme dedicated to least developed countries (LDCs). The programme is supported by a multi-donor trust fund with contributions from 24 country donors.

EIF core partner agencies include the International Trade Centre, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the World Bank, the WTO and the World Tourism Organization.

Working closely with governments, donors, development partners, the private sector and civil society, the EIF assists LDCs through analytical work, institutional support and capacity-building projects to ensure that trade functions as a pathway for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Strategic plan

The EIF Strategic Plan (2019-2022) stresses one of the key objectives is to help LDCs improve technology use in production and services in global value chains. To this end, the EIF works with LDCs to facilitate their access to technologies and skills they need, including e-commerce infrastructure. The fast pace of growth in the global technology sector can be challenging for LDCs but the challenges posed by COVID-19 have also presented an opportunity.

Advances in the use of digital technologies have been particularly swift since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, which underscores the need for the LDCs to be properly equipped with new technologies to ensure they can fully harness the benefits of trade.

EIF support for digital trade

The EIF's support to LDCs and digital trade falls into three work streams:

Analytical work

The EIF has been partnering with UNCTAD to facilitate eTrade Readiness Assessments in the LDCs. These diagnostic studies identify gaps and make recommendations for LDC governments, the private sector and development partners in various areas relevant to digital trade, including strategy formulation, ICT infrastructure and services, trade logistics and trade facilitation, payment solution, legal and regulatory framework, e-commerce skills and access to finance.

To date, the EIF has supported more than ten eTrade Readiness Assessments in LDCs. Recent assessments include for Lesotho, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

The digital trade landscape in LDCs is also analyzed through the Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies (DTIS). DTIS updates have been recently concluded in Cambodia, Bhutan and Lao PDR.

Trade institutional and policy capacity building

EIF-supported projects are helping to further develop trade capacity and assist LDCs in implementing recommendations from analytical work related to building the policy and regulatory environment for digital trade. The EIF is also working to provide skills development support for technology, with a focus on priority groups (women, youth and small businesses) to ensure that technologies provide tools and new career opportunities for the most marginalized.

The development of e-commerce strategies has been supported in Cambodia, Senegal and Tuvalu. Together with strategic partners such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), ITC, UNCTAD and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the EIF is working to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs on the use of e-commerce platforms and helping LDCs to mainstream a gender perspective in domestic policies to ensure that women participate fully in the digital economy.

UNESCAP is also implementing an EIF funded project on strengthening the capacity of target countries in facilitating cross-border paperless trade for sustainable development, utilizing emerging technologies when feasible and effective.

Digital platforms and transformation in selected sectors

The EIF has continued to provide support to the creation of digital platforms and transformation in selected sectors. Innovative e-solutions continue to emerge from EIF projects. Streamlined electronic customs systems have boosted trade in Vanuatu and Zambia. In addition, e-commerce platforms have been launched in Benin, Cambodia, Nepal and Rwanda, providing opportunities for small firms to expand their businesses and grow internationally.

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