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.
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.