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Original Article

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Abstract In this paper, we analyse the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Africa's trade in digitizable products, digitally deliverable services (DDSs), and e-commerce, and we outline the challenges of a digitally led recovery from the pandemic for African countries. The analysis is based on macro- and micro-level data and a review of extant literature. We find that almost 60% of the global exports of digital products in 2020 originated from the EU, with another 16% from North America. Africa's share in global exports of digital products, by contrast, was less than 1%. In the case of intra-Africa trade, exports of digital products are concentrated in just a few countries. Online supply in services is found to be more resilient to negative shocks from the pandemic compared to other modes of supply. We also find that e-commerce has important potential for economic recovery, but that its impact in Africa is constrained by high internet costs, weaknesses in postal services and capacities, cross-border trade costs, and lags in electronic infrastructure and digital payment systems. Based on the results of the study, we propose policies at the national, regional, and international levels to leverage digital trade for post-COVID recovery in Africa.

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