In Rwanda is connecting Africa with the world through the eWTPlatform, we were delighted to note the establishment of what is perceived to be the next major driver of online trade, and enabler of startups and SMEs in their quest of access to the global market.
But, given there’s already a World Trade Organization which exists, what’s, therefore, the purpose of creating another World Trade Platform? How did this latter come about? What are its goals, and why should entrepreneurs care about it? It is to these questions we found the need to explain more on Jack Ma’s latest big move.
It was in March 2016 at the Boao Asian Forum that Jack Mack, CoFounder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, proposed for the first time the concept of eWTP (electronic World Trade Platform). For Jack – who is, by the way, one of the biggest advocates for startups and SMEs integration in globalization-, the benefits of increased trade and globalization have not reached smaller enterprises and developing countries as much as it has benefited their larger, more established counterparts. Therefore the eWTP is intended to equip and help companies and developing countries that are not realizing their full trading potential, to overcome complex regulations, processes, and barriers that hinder their participation in global trade.
Concretely, The eWTP, set to be a not for profit platform, provides small and medium-sized enterprises with operational infrastructures, such as commerce logistics, cloud computing, mobile payments, and skills training. The long-term vision for the platform is that it will be driven by businesses, with support from governments, whereby governments can create virtual free trade zones for small business and businesses can create hubs for e-commerce. These eHubs would allow small businesses in one country to sell to consumers in another, with low or no import duties, speedy customs clearance, and better access to logistics.
Finally, the eWTP will incubate rules for the development of eTrade in specific areas like industry standards and rules, simplification of regulations and customs processes, the evolution of consumer protection, lowering of tariffs, harmonization of taxation, development of internet and logistics infrastructure, facilitation of flow of goods, finance and data.
In November 2017, Malaysia was the first country to join the eWTP, being the first eWTP hub outside of China. Rwanda is the first African country and the latest added to the list.
Yet, significant challenges remain to overcome. For example, some of the biggest barriers to cross-border trade are the wide variety of market-specific regulations with which products and services must comply, burdensome customs procedures, and access to logistics and financing. The latest World Bank’s Doing Business Report shows that many countries in Africa are progressively implementing reforms so that these challenges find appropriate solutions.
The eWTP being effective, it’s now up to the Startups and Small businesses to take hold of the opportunity and make the best out of it.