Small business resilience celebrated around the world

30 June 2022
ITC News

ITC celebrated the annual Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day, recognizing small businesses around the world for their contributions to their communities. 

On 27 June, we recognize small businesses around the world for their contributions to their communities.  

Resilient recovery is this year’s focus, as entrepreneurs face the triple threat of COVID-19, conflict and climate.

This is the fifth anniversary of MSME Day, which the UN General Assembly created to build awareness of the contribution of small businesses to job creation, economic growth and thriving communities. The International Trade Centre is a leader of the global celebration of this international day, together with small businesses, governments and civil society.

Here is a re-cap of the four ITC co-sponsored events that took place virtually and in person in New York and that aimed at building skills, gain recognition and gather insights to support small firms.

Resilience and Rebuilding: MSMEs for Sustainable Development

Full-day event in New York, UN HQ

ITC co-hosted a full-day hybrid-event in the ECOSOC Chamber of UN Headquarters in New York, with the theme of “Resilience and Rebuilding: MSMEs for Sustainable Development”. This was the first international “name day” to be celebrated in person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each year since 2017, more and more stakeholders and Member States have led MSME Day celebrations around the world, recognizing that MSMEs are the economic lifeblood of communities.  While MSMEs have been resilient and pivoted during the pandemic, many speakers noted that they are not out of the woods and require support to combat the triple crises of climate change, conflict, and the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic.  ITC Representative to the UN in New York, Riefqah Jappie moderated a session on innovation featuring diverse MSME voices and also shared perspectives in a panel on supporting women-led MSMEs.

ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton delivered remarks in the opening session, alongside the Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations, and leaders from the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) and UN co-organizing agencies: the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

ITC-nominated business support organizations and MSMEs also shared perspectives on other panels related to policy innovation and MSME resilience. Concluding the day’s celebrations, ITC co-sponsored a reception that was attended by partners and Member States.

Small Business Champions: 2022 competition 

Virtual event
This year’s Small Business Champions initiative was launched during a joint event organized by the World Trade Organization’s Informal Working Group of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Trade Centre.

The annual competition promotes innovative ideas that support small business resilience. This year’s focus is on supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in transitioning to a sustainable economy. The competition will not only raise awareness of the difficulties small businesses are facing when it comes to decarbonization but will also promote best practices in becoming more sustainable in international trade.

A business panel followed the introductory remarks of each co-organizing institution (Dr. Ngozi and H.E. Ambassdor José Luis Cancela for WTO, John Denton for ICC and Dorothy Tembo for ITC).

The panel brought the voices of entrepreneurs, the private sector represented by UPS and SAGE, as well as non-profit inputs from Sustainable Finance Geneva, forward and looked at the challenges and the drivers of small businesses “greening” their practices.

Despite their different context of working, the panellists all agreed that small businesses are committed to greening their business practices considering the conscious consumer trends, but that they are facing challenges in doing so as individuals. Reaching targets as a micro entrepreneur cannot be compared to those of a big company.

The panellists put forward the following overall solutions to address these challenges:

  1. Bring down the price of sustainability (being sustainable is costly and proving sustainability through certification as well).
  2. Reduce the regulatory burden. Actions need prioritizing and tailoring and should not become a reporting burden which small businesses cannot sustain, as they lack time, money and human resources to do so.
  3. Partnerships and collaborative platforms are welcome to support small businesses in simple information sharing and best practices for greener solutions.

To watch the recording of the event, click here.

For more information on the Small Business Champions initiative or to set forward a proposal, please click here.

B2B e-commerce for small businesses: With Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com has joined ITC experts to discuss how small businesses can benefit from B2B e-commerce. 

MSMEs were severely impacted by the economy’s fluctuations since the breakout of COVID-19 and the Russian Federation-Ukraine conflict. E-commerce might be the shortcut for MSMEs to sustain business growth in such challenging situations.

“Growing demand is the most important task for global MSMEs during the pandemic, and e-commerce is the most effective way to achieve this goal,” said Andrew Zheng, Vice President of Alibaba.com at the event.

“B2B e-commerce is where most digital trade takes place - but unfortunately very few MSMEs are equipped with the know-how to take part. It is possible to begin simply: by using your own website and social media to address professional buyers in international markets and build experience through marketplaces,” mentioned James Howe, senior advisor at ITC. He explained in detail the trends in B2B e-commerce, the different channels for B2B sales, and the skills and capabilities required to select the right B2B e-commerce model and develop the sales channels. Successful participation in B2B e-commerce requires a shift in mindset from management and the whole team, investment in digital skills, and changes in processes.

In addition, two entrepreneurs, Sami Abdulweisse of Petram PLC and Maria Francesca Aceti of Deltha Pharma srl shared their success stories and how they achieved good B2B sales through e-commerce and digital transformation. 

To watch the event, click here.

DHL MSME Virtual Helpdesk

To support MSMEs engaging in international trade, Deutsche Post DHL and ITC jointly organized the DHL MSME Virtual Helpdesk. Thirteen DHL experts were available during 16 sessions to cover the logistics, transport, and shipping topics that were identified prior to the event based on the requests put forward by the small businesses.

More than 320 MSMEs registered for these Helpdesk sessions, with 50 entrepreneurs using the opportunity to directly speak to the DHL logistics experts.

They dialled in from all over the world: from Guatemala, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Ethiopia, Kenya to Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The majority though joined from the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa region.

The questions raised by the MSMEs included, What are the different modes of shipping?”, “What is to be considered when importing perfume oils from India to the United States?”, “How can I better market my web shop on Facebook/Instagram?”, “What do I need to do to support a faster customs clearance”, “What is an HS Code and where can I find it?”, and many more.

This pilot showed that the entrepreneurs’ desire to receive logistics information and support is strong. DHL will consider scaling up and organizing more virtual helpdesks in the future.