PUBLISHED ON May 12th, 2023

TradeMark, UWEAL launch women’s trade portal

TradeMark Africa (TMA) in partnership with the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd (UWEAL) have launched iSOKO, an integrated information platform for women traders.

The innovation was developed through the support of Global Affairs Canada.

A web and mobile platform for women traders, iSOKO will provide a regional marketplace to buy and sell goods, vital trade and market information, business management tools including bookkeeping, and networking opportunities with fellow traders. This innovative tool is part of TradeMark Africa’s Women in Trade programme.

The platform, which was unveiled in Kampala today, will serve to bring together women traders from five countries in the East African Community — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

The chief guest at the event, Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs Rebecca Kadaga, was represented by Uganda’s State Minister for East African Affairs Magode Ikuya, who said iSOKO was important in 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.”

Designed to support women in trade across East Africa access and use vital and simplified information, iSOKO will unlock opportunities for participation, formalisation of businesses and growth in trade value.

The iSOKO platform is an integrated information portal designed to support women in trade across East Africa to access and use vital information that is pertinent to their trade transactions.

By ensuring easier access to information, iSOKO will be instrumental in promoting market integration and increasing the competitiveness of large, medium-level and small-scale women traders to participate in new market opportunities. In making it possible for information about market demand to be easily available and accessible, iSOKO will also serve to spur the development of markets and value chains within the industry.

Anna Nambooze, the TMA Country Director for Uganda, thanked Global Affairs Canada for committing about $18 million towards programmes aimed at women traders. “We have 3,700 traders registered on iSOKO across the region; iSOKO has given women a seat at the technological table.”

This positive assessment of the new platform was shared by UWEAL Chairperson Sarah Kitakule, who said women have suffered from limited knowledge of export markets, compliance requirements, and other important trade aspects. “Sexual harassment will also decline because the use of the platform will lead to reduced travel.”

Other guests at the function included members of the UWEAL Board of Directors, government officials and representatives of development partners.

The platform contains functions that will enable women in trade share information that may assist other women and even authorities deal with issues around abuse and harassment at borders in an anonymous way.

The portal provides free access to 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 and who therefore suffer low values and volumes.

The platform was first launched in Nairobi on 22 March 2023. The Kampala launch is therefore 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.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.