Women traders and entrepreneurs under their umbrella body Uganda Women’s Entrepreneurs Association (UWEAL) has launched an online integrated information application named Isoko, which will provide a regional marketplace to buy and sell goods, vital trade and market information, business management tools including bookkeeping, and networking opportunities for fellow traders.
The platform, which was developed in partnership with Trade Mark East Africa with support from Global Affairs Canada, will serve to bring together women traders from the five countries in the East African Community of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
While launching the platform in Kampala, Anna Nambooze, the Trade Mark East Africa country director, said that through their studies about the trends in trade, they recognised that women’s contribution to trade has remained low due to various non-tariff barriers, such as lack of information that impacts negatively on their activities.
So, Isoko was conceived to address the information gap and empower women with the tools they need to increase their trade.
“By ensuring easier access to information, Isoko will be instrumental in promoting market integration and increasing the competitiveness of large, medium, and small-scale women traders to participate in new market opportunities.
“By making it possible for information about market de- mand to be easily available and accessible, Isoko will also serve to spur the development of markets and value chains within the industry,” Nambooze said.
The chairperson of UWEAL, Sarah Kitakule, noted that though there is a high concentration of women in trade, they continue to face a lot of challenges, like limited knowledge of opportunities in export markets and ways to integrate into regional value chains; limited capacity to produce value-added products and services; challenges relating to compliance with regulatory requirements and safety and quality standards; and, worse still, the gender digital divide continues to be an underlying challenge that limits women’s access to information and ability to engage in global trade.
“We recognise the immense challenges that our women face and how they impede their potential to grow and trade. That is why we are constantly looking for innovations and finding solutions like Isoko, which is an outstanding innovation that will elevate women in Uganda’s business community. Isoko is a digital platform that enables women to trade by providing vital trade and market information.
With just a click of a button, our women traders in Gulu can post their products for sale and reach potential buyers in Kampala. Not only that; other potential buyers in Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya can view the products and contact the traders,” she said.