How small businesses ensure a better global recovery

3 October 2022
ITC News

Small businesses play a vital role in helping the world build back better from the pandemic. At the WTO Public Forum, ITC showed how to keep them at the centre of the recovery.

The Public Forum is the World Trade Organization’s largest public outreach event, and ITC was there to talk about how to ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery for small businesses.

At this year’s event, next to bringing the voice of small businesses to the forefront and including them in discussions about the future of trade by leading on five sessions and being present at numerous others, ITC launched the 2022 edition of its flagship report on innovative paths to inclusive economic recovery.

Over the four days, 27-30 September, ITC also hosted a booth that showcased how digital connectivity supports small businesses, including through accessing online communities such as ecomConnect, the Ye! Community for young entrepreneurs, SheTrades.com and other one-stop shop digital information platforms such as the Global Trade Help Desk.

Here a few highlights of ITC’s involvement:

Connected Services, Competitive Businesses

For economies to take off, and place small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the core of a sustainable and inclusive recovery, improving access to connected services is indispensable.

The SME Competitiveness Outlook 2022 puts the spotlight on four types of services – known as connected services – that drive transformation, regardless of economic level.

The four – transport and logistics, financial services, information and communication technologies, and business and professional services – contribute directly to economic growth, with an increasing share of output, trade and jobs. They also contribute indirectly, by making all firms more competitive.

“Connected services also make our societies more equal,” said ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton during the launch event. “Through them, small businesses, and those led by women and young entrepreneurs, are able to integrate into international value chains, and adopt digital technologies to produce and engage with buyers, suppliers and support institutions more efficiently. This way, trade becomes more inclusive, with the resulting gains more broadly distributed.”

Women’s journeys: SheTrades entrepreneurs share their stories

Products from some of the women-owned businesses that work with ITC programmes were on display at the SheTrades entrepreneurs booth. These women from Bangladesh, Mexico, Rwanda and Uruguay were also sharing their entrepreneurial journeys during a session called “Breaking into male-dominated sectors”.

Digital Platforms for Inclusive Growth

This session brought together representatives from ITC, the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, Google and African Women in Trade to discuss the diverse digital tools designed to help small firms make the most of global trade opportunities.

Pamela Coke- Hamilton, ITC Executive Director, highlighted SheTrades, ecomConnect and Global Trade Helpdesk as platforms that support inclusion through connecting millions of women entrepreneurs to markets, helping firms cross the digital divide, and leveraging partnerships to simplify market research for firms of all sizes.

MSMEs: The Key to Realising Sustainable Gains Under the AfCFTA

Experts at the WTO Public Forum deliberated on greening micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to harness the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The session found that core standards for African businesses to achieve sustainability are social, economic, and environmental standards.

For effective greening of businesses, trade and industrialization policies need to be aligned to include standards and quality, and foreign direct investment needs to be mobilized.

Digitalization is also imperative especially for MSMEs in Africa so that barriers in affordability and internet speed can be addressed to ensure business competitivity.

“Our interventions promote resource efficiency and circularity in production and support increased MSME access to markets for green and biodiversity-based products,” said Dorothy Tembo, ITC Deputy Executive Director during the event. “We have created a host of dedicated hubs to support small businesses, through providing knowledge on green opportunities and innovations, expertise on how to put these into practice and an extensive network to support ‘going green’.”