TradeMark Africa (TMA) in partnership with the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) on Thursday launched iSOKO, an integrated information platform for women traders.
Developed through the support of Global Affairs Canada, iSOKO is an innovative tool that is part of TradeMark Africa’s Women in Trade program. The platform will serve to bring together women traders from five countries in the East African Community — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
iSOKO is a web and mobile platform for women traders that 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.
While unveiling the innovation at an event held in Kampala, the 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 iSOKO is 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,” remarked Ikuya.
Designed to support women in trade across East Africa access and use vital and simplified information, iSOKO will unlock opportunities for participation, formalization 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.
Ms. Anna Nambooze, TradeMark Africa Country Director for Uganda, thanked Global Affairs Canada for committing about USD$18 million (roughly UGX66.9 billion) towards programs aimed at women traders. She further noted that over 3,700 traders are registered on iSOKO across the region — remarking that “iSOKO has given women a seat at the technological table.”
This positive assessment of the new platform was shared by UWEAL Chairperson Ms. 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,” said Kitakule.
iSOKO contains functions that will enable women in trade to 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.