TradeMark Africa and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd (UWEAL) have launched iSOKO, an integrated information platform for women traders in East Africa.
KAMPALA, UGANDA | NOW THEN DIGITAL — TradeMark Africa (TMA) and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd (UWEAL) have joined hands to launch iSOKO, an integrated information platform aimed at women traders.
The initiative, supported by Global Affairs Canada, offers a web and mobile platform for women traders across East Africa to buy and sell goods, gain access to vital trade and market information, utilize business management tools including bookkeeping, and connect with fellow traders.
iSOKO is part of TradeMark Africa‘s Women in Trade programme, which seeks to support women in trade access and use vital information for their transactions.
TMA Country Director for Uganda, Anna Nambooze, thanked Global Affairs Canada for committing approximately $18 million towards programmes aimed at women traders. She also noted that the iSOKO platform had given women a seat at the technological table.
Regional Marketplace for Women Traders in East Africa
The platform, launched today in Kampala, will bring together women traders from five East African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Uganda’s State Minister for East African Affairs Magode Ikuya, who represented the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs Rebecca Kadaga, said that iSOKO was vital for the overall integration of the East African Community. “We need to integrate our people in the economic field. Trade is a very important aspect of doing that,” he added.
Facilitating Trade for Women Entrepreneurs in East Africa
Designed to provide vital and simplified information for women in trade across East Africa, iSOKO aims to unlock opportunities for participation, formalisation of businesses and growth in trade value.
It is expected that the platform will promote market integration, increase the competitiveness of large, medium-level, and small-scale women traders, and help them participate in new market opportunities.
The platform will also provide information about market demand, leading to the development of markets and value chains within the industry.
UWEAL Chairperson Sarah Kitakule said the platform would help address limited knowledge of export markets, compliance requirements, and other important trade aspects that women have suffered from.
She added that “sexual harassment will also decline because the use of the platform will lead to reduced travel.” The platform contains features that will enable women in trade to share information anonymously that may help other women and even authorities deal with issues around abuse and harassment at borders.
Platform Accessibility and Launch
The iSOKO platform is free to access for women traders who wish to register. This project is expected to go a long way in increasing the trade value and incomes of women traders across the region, especially those engaged in informal trade who suffer from low values and volumes.
The platform was first launched in Nairobi on March 22, 2023. The Kampala launch is the second in the region and will be followed in the coming weeks by launches in the remaining three East African countries targeted in this programme.
The platform is useable even in areas of high illiteracy levels, with the basic requirement being the ability to use a mobile phone. It contains features that will enable women to form groups and networks by mapping out other women with similar interests and issues.
This networking, using technology, will enhance solidarity and collaboration among women traders, allowing them to advocate for their rights and better optimize market opportunities that are availed through their market networks.
TradeMark Africa’s iSOKO platform provides women traders in East Africa with a regional marketplace, vital trade and market information, and networking opportunities.
The platform is expected to increase trade value and incomes of women traders, especially those engaged in informal trade who suffer from low values and volumes.
Its accessibility and features enable women to form groups and networks, enhance solidarity and collaboration, and advocate for their rights.
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