Stories of resilience

21 September 2020
Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director, International Trade Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unparalleled global health crisis and disrupted every aspect of society and business, putting the world’s economic activity under stress.

Although the pandemic has affected every corner of the world, the economic earthquake unleashed by COVID-19 does not affect everyone in the same way.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises provide 70% of all jobs worldwide –
but with fewer resources to ride out the storm, they have been particularly vulnerable to the crisis, especially those living in least developed countries and small island

Through our network of business support organizations, we reached out to small businesses to understand their concerns and needs. In the Fast Facts section of this edition of International Trade Forum, we are proud to show you some key findings of our COVID-19 Business Impact Survey.

We also developed a 15-point action plan, with advice for small businesses, business support organizations and governments to help them get through this crisis and look towards the future.

Today, attention has shifted to how these actors can adapt to post COVID-19 realities.
In this issue, we are keen to share with you some examples we have come across these past few months – the reactions of businesses as well as possible solutions offered by organizations or governmental institutions in supporting small businesses in their fight for survival.

For instance, in our feature story about Ghanaian cosmetics business KAEME and our interview with eco-lodge owners in Myanmar, you can read how keeping employees and having a steady online presence has paid off.

From the perspective of building business ecosystems in a volatile environment, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Permanent Conference of African and Francophone Consular Chambers depict how they, as support organizations, can act as a lifeline for small businesses.

Going deeper into the challenges Africa is facing as a continent, the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area shines light on how implementing the new Agreement can benefit the continent’s economic situation.

Finally yet importantly, investment and digitalization of trade during these difficult times are indispensable for building any post COVID-19 economy – the contributions by the Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the WTO and private deal-matching Opportunity Network give the needed inspiration.

ITC’s assistance to firms in the past few months has taken multiple forms and has been supported by the wider ONE UN initiative – the UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania explains in his article what this looks like.

Our ITC in Action stories of textile producers in Central Asia who are moving into producing masks, our global e-learning programme, and how logistics work in Guinea, reflect our efforts to make business work in the ‘new normal’.

As the only international organization fully dedicated to supporting the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, ITC continues to assist our stakeholders with weathering this crisis and preparing for the future. I hope this edition gives you insight into this complex topic.