Woman poses in jacket designed in traditional patterns of Central Asia
hands holding iPad screen displaying the ITC-Novica Artisans Connect site
Intricate pieces of jewellery from Kazakhstan displayed on stone
Man looks at computer screen displaying the ITC Novica Silk Road website

How online trade is changing business in Central Asia

29 mayo 2024
ITC News

The ITC-NOVICA partnership is set to reach $400,000 in online sales by year-end, thanks to new channels opened for Central Asian artisans. But the impact extends far beyond financials, transforming e-commerce, logistics, and creating jobs in remote communities.

In 2022 the ITC ecomConnect team forged a groundbreaking collaboration with the global fair-trade marketplace NOVICA, launching the “Silk Road” Artisan Empowerment Hub and Artisans Connect Online Store under the EU-funded Ready4Trade Central Asia project. The initiative has already earned $180,000 in sales this year and is set to reach $400,000 by year-end, driving regional economic and policy advancements: 

Catalyzing economic growth and employment  

 With a rise in sales and expanding product range, artisans now enjoy a more sustainable income. As of January 2024, there are 64 live artisan profiles with over 1,000 products on the NOVICA marketplace, all of whom have sold internationally.  

The artisans gained added visibility from featuring on NOVICA’s partner marketplaces such as the Unicef US Market, Road Scholar World Bazaar, Smithsonian Folklife Festival Marketplace, and the NOVICA store in Amazon.  

Improving cross-border trade efficiency   

The opening of a regional hub and warehouse based in Uzbekistan have streamlined import-export operations, enhancing trade among five Central Asian countries. The ITC-DHL partnership secured efficient shipping at advantageous rates, while bringing in best international practice in customs and shipping logistics.   

Increasing appeal of Central Asian products globally   

Quality is paramount for NOVICA. In addition to the e-commerce training and coaching delivered by the R4TCA project, each artisan featured on NOVICA underwent comprehensive in-person and one-on-one training. These meetings included understanding market trends, product development tailored to market needs and rigorous quality control measures.   

Fostering regional dialogue and policy improvements  

Engaging with local governments and associations led to better policies for artisan businesses, including resolving customs inconsistencies and addressing banking issues. For example, thanks to NOVICA’s dialogue with customs, the Ministry of Digital Technologies and the DHL office in Uzbekistan, local artisans can now ship sterling silver jewellery internationally by courier.  

Balancing innovation and cultural heritage 

Within the Artisans Empowerment Hub, artisans learned to develop products tailored to market needs while preserving the cultural uniqueness of their crafts. The extensive communication efforts of NOVICA to present the region to its international customer base, notably in the NOVICA catalog and Undiscovered Box, highlighted the rich craftmanship of Central Asian artisans.   

By maintaining these efforts, the ITC-NOVICA partnership aims to further integrate Central Asian artisans into the global economy, ensuring sustainable development and enhanced economic opportunities for all.  

About NOVICA    

Founded in 1999 to empower global artisans and preserve endangered cultural art forms, Los Angeles-based Novica.com has become the leading online fair trade marketplace in the world. NOVICA’s key partners include UNICEF, International Trade Centre, Kiva, Smithsonian Folklife and USAID. Novica.com showcases and delivers the world’s handmade fair trade art forms directly to individual customers’ doorsteps. An estimated 75,000 people in emerging nations benefit globally, including artisans and their dependents. NOVICA has sent more than  $134 million in sales to artisans to date and has provided more than $3.5 million in zero-interest capital loans to artisans. NOVICA direct-shipped fair trade purchases to customers in 80 countries over the past 365 days alone, from artisans around the world. www.NOVICA.com  

About the ITC Ready 4Trade Central Asia project   

The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a four-year EU-funded project implemented by the International Trade Centre in close collaboration with national partners, designed to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the countries of the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.