By Stephen Enoch
As part of efforts to facilitate trade among women under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime, a new online portal Electronic Trade Hubs (eTrade Hubs), which will serve as an entry point for trade tools and information, was launched virtually on Thursday.
In partnership with the AfCFTA countries, the trade stakeholders involved in the initiative are the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), United Parcel Service (UPS), Trade Law Center (Tralac), West Blue Consulting as well as Global Trade Solutions.
eTrade Hubs is a one-stop entry point for trade tools, information and collaboration that seeks to connect manufacturers, distributors, resellers and buyers together for business purposes. It seeks to maximize the impact of women-led SMEs by providing support on business scaling, import and export activities so as to maximize digitization tools for better trade acceleration in Africa.
While emphasizing the importance of the newly launched platform in the Covid-19 era, Ms Valentina Mintah, founder of West Blue Consulting, said the newly launched one-stop shop will offer digital tools, information and capacity building in the AfCFTA era adding that it would provide a transparent and interactive procedure of service which would make business easier and thus provide enormous opportunities for SMEs.
“The adoption of ICT solutions by women in business and trade would contribute to an increased ability for women to work from home while raising families and also prevent issues of gender bias as well as develop their capacity and keep them in sync with the current global trend of work,” Ms Mintah added.
Mr John Denton, the secretary general of ICC, said as women would account for a higher number of individuals in trade and business under the AfCFTA regime, the platform will afford them trade management tools and other digitization tools necessary to support and scale their businesses which would ultimately reduce the time and cost incurred while doing business.
Mr Kunio Mikuriya, the secretary general of World Customs Organization (WCO), while speaking on digitization of trade in Africa and the inclusion of women in trade said the WCO had adopted a declaration on gender equality and diversity in the customs system, which was a major step towards fostering gender equality and inclusiveness so as to enable women to trade easily.
“The WCO supports the speedy implementation of AfCFTA because it is a milestone for Africa to create one market in the continent which is fundamental to ensure easy access to information for traders and to encourage women in trade.”
In her remarks, Ms Trudi Hartzenberg, the executive director of Tralac said the AfCFTA had come at a time when it was most needed thanks to the global uncertainties occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore urged women in business and trade to maximize digital solutions being offered by eTrade Hubs as it had a potential to create a large market and break trade barriers.
“With a good number of the African population consisting of women and youths, it shows that a sustainable future for trade and business should be expected if digital trade solutions are leveraged upon to harness opportunities via e-commerce.”
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