The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in partnership with West Blue Consulting, United Parcel Services (UPS) and Trade Law Center (TRALAC) have unveiled a digital trade solutions platform, tagged eTradeHubs portal, to expand market access and economic opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises in Africa – especially women-owned businesses.
The eTradeHubs portal (www.etradehubs.com) developed by two indigenous African technology providers – Global Trade Solution (GTS) and West Blue Consulting, provides a 24/7 interface for women traders and entrepreneurs in Africa (along with their male peers) to connect and access timely and up to date information, skills and operational tools, offered by the various service providers within the supply chain.
Designed to leverage on the benefits arising from the operationalization of the AfCFTA Agreement, the eTradeHub portal aims to reduce the time and cost of doing business by supporting enterprises at all levels – from micro to multinational.
The portal features include a multi country tariff and trade information tool as well as a Duty Calculator. A first-time trader or existing trader wishing to import raw materials or export finished goods, can search on the portal for the specific HS Code, related tariff lines, preferential rates of duties, and regulatory procedures and documents required for that specific item. The Duty Calculator further provides an estimate of the customs duty, tax and levies of the destination region or country, to aid in financial and logistics planning.
Using the eTradeHubs portal, the trader is able to process trade documentation, manage compliance, workflow and costs – all on the same platform, without the need to visit multiple regulatory agencies, entities, websites and physical offices. The platform enables enterprises to scale-up and digitize their operations by providing access to online training, webinars and workshops.
The portal currently provides country data of Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and the ECOWAS sub region, with more countries and sub regions soon to be added, in line with the Digitize 5 million African SMEs initiative.
ICC, West Blue, UPS and TRALAC through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) announced a partnership in February that will provide capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portal called eTradeHubs, to help women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) expand their operations to new markets in Africa and around the world.
Through the auspices of the “Women Traders in AfCFTA” working group, this partnership will collaborate with advocacy groups, trade associations, and other stakeholders on the continent to support women owned businesses.
Secretary General of ICC, John W.H. Denton AO at the virtual launch of the partnership said: “the economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere. We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, TRALAC, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind.”
Valentina Mintah, CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting said: “the adoption of smart solutions by women in business and trade will ensure benefits such increased flexibility for women to work from home whilst raising children, improved access to global markets, networking opportunities and a significant shift of women from the informal to the formal sector.”
Mintah is optimistic that the eTradeHubs portal by lowering the entry barriers to cross border trade will allow entrepreneurs grow their business rapidly. She said that the informal sector will not be left out as info-graphics and videos in local African languages will be introduced to deepened inclusion and diversity.
Penny Naas, President of UPS International Public Affairs & Sustainability said: “research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills.
Our partnership with the ICC, TRALAC, and West Blue Consulting will offer exporting workshops for women entrepreneurs and to advocate for enabling environments that pave the way for African women’s success.”
Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director TRALAC said: “the adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA will address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders. TRALAC is very pleased to collaborate with ICC, UPS and West Blue Consulting to support digitisation of women’s businesses, to enhance their competitiveness in the AfCFTA and global markets.”
The partnership forged by ICC, West Blue, UPS and TRALAC will be supported by the ICC’s Centre of Entrepreneurship, an initiative to prepare and mobilize the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world. With regional hubs in Istanbul and Beirut, ICC will announce future hubs in Africa and South America in 2021. The hubs in Africa according to ICC’s Global Communication Officer, Timothy Conley, will be used to implement the partnership’s programmes and reach out to SMEs across the continent.