The COMESA Federation of Women in Business (COMFWB) in collaboration with the African E-Trade Group (Ae-Trade) has launched the online Platform Sokokuu to traders in the COMESA region to conduct cross border trade using ICT as a tool to minimize physical barriers.
Sokokuu is a Swahili word meaning big market.
Two other COMESA institutions namely the COMESA Business Council (CBC) and the African Leather and Leather products (ALLPI) have already signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with Ae-Trade on the operationalization of the Sokokuu platform.
Sokokuu is expected to complement existing platforms such as the womenconnect which is used by women entrepreneurs in the Member States to exchange information on availability of essential products within the region.
The platform enables manufacturers and suppliers in different Member States to share information on the e-platform, on their products and their potential to produce and supply.
Speaking at the launch of the virtual platform on September 22 during the 2nd COMFWB Annual regional Trade Fair in Lusaka, Secretary General (SG) Chileshe Kapwepwe COMESA recognizes the potential of ICT in enhancing regional integration.
“Four years ago, COMESA decided to shift focus to promote digital economic integration and adopted the theme: COMESA – Towards Digital Economic Integration,” she said.
“The decision was based on the understanding that the region stood on the brink of a new industrial revolution, driven by new-generation information technologies.”
COMESA has embraced Sokokuu as valuable e-commerce tool especially at this time of COVID 19 pandemic which has restricted physical contacts.
The adoption of the Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) was intended to reinforce the implementation of the Free Trade Area, which was launched in October 2000 to facilitate COMESA regional integration.
It is aimed at empowering traders to do cross-border trade using ICT as a tool to minimize physical barriers and provide the necessary environment and infrastructure for enhancement of global trade.
The SG was represented by the Assistant Secretary General Administration and Finance Dr Dev Haman.
Speaking at the same event, COMFWB Chief Executive Officer Ruth Negash noted the importance of creating an enabling environment to support adoption of e-commerce by ensuring women’s and girls’ full access to ICTs, including digital devices and services.
Apart from COMESA Secretariat and COMFWB, representatives from the African Union (AU), the United Nations Develop Programmes (UNDP), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat and Ae-Trade Group all commended the launch of the online platform.
The AeTrade is a multi-stakeholder group of African professionals and businesspeople with a vision to develop and implement an e-empowerment program that will enhance intra-and inter-African trade.
The group brings together public and private sector partners to develop projects that leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the benefit of Africa’s present and future entrepreneurs.