TradeMark Africa (TMA) in partnership with Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) through the support of Global Affairs Canada, have launched an integrated information platform iSOKO. 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.

A web and mobile platform for women traders, iSOKO will provide a regional marketplace to buy and sell goods, access vital trade and market information, find business management tools including bookkeeping, access verified service providers and networking opportunities with fellow traders. This innovative tool is part of TradeMark Africa’s Women in Trade programme and was co-created and tested with different segments of traders across the region.

“Having women at the centre of how we do development, foreign policy and trade, is effective, and helps us to meet our development objectives key among them poverty reduction,” said Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya Christopher Thornley. “iSOKO will go a long way in addressing the key market and information gaps that exist for women traders in cross-border trade.”

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

Dr Bruno Linyiru, the Secretary for Trade in the State Department for Trade, said the iSOKO portal will have a significant impact on the lives of women traders by increasing their income, improving their bargaining power and promoting their economic independence. “It is part of our broader efforts to promote gender equality and support women’s empowerment in all areas of our society.”

Other speakers included TMA Board Chairman Amb. Erastus Mwencha who observed that digital tools are enabling women from the region overcome multiple trade barriers and access more markets in the continent and beyond. “The global digital trade is estimated at US$ 5.2 trillion, and we want women traders in East Africa to attract a sizeable share of this trade. The platform we are launching today easily enhances market access by electronically connecting traders with their customers. TMA Deputy CEO Allen Asiimwe, who said the organization had been working with women traders in the region for over a decade. “With trade, women are able to grow their incomes and better their homes, communities and families.”

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.

The occasion was also attended by KNCCI Chamber President Richard Ngatia, who noted the platform is already attracting great use by traders in the country. Through our County chamber and Women in Business arm we have onboarded 2,650 users onto the platform with information on over 100 commodities uploaded, we expect the numbers to grow significantly after this launch” said Ngatia.

The Kenya launch is the first in the region and will be followed in the coming weeks with launches in the other four East African countries targeted in this programme.