SMEs urged to embrace e-commerce


Arancha Gonzalez, the Executive Director, ITC exchanges documents with Stefano Arganese , the Chief Executive Officer, DHL Freight - Central, Eastern, Southern Europe, America, Middle East and Africa, as Minister Kanimba looks on. (T. Kamanzi)

Rwanda’s small and medium entrepreneurs have been urged to embrace electronic - commerce and ICT to penetrate regional and global markets.

Electronic commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over an electronic network, primarily the Internet.

According to trade experts, embracing this type of business will help reduce operational and logistical costs incurred by SMEs that constitute almost 98 per cent of businesses across the country.

The experts believe that greater international e-commerce participation will increase dividends for the digital technology investment that Rwanda has already made.

According to Hanne Melin, Director, Global public policy and head of eBay Lab for Europe, Middle East and Africa, SMEs need to look beyond domestic markets to boost their chances of accessing global consumer networks.

“This way, they will be able to export and sell products much faster at low costs and increase their competitiveness,” Melin, said.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa events organised at Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali yesterday.

It was focused on the insights, opportunities and ways on how to promote trade through digital channels in Africa.

The event was jointly organized by the Government of Rwanda, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and DHL and brought together more than 100 trade experts and entrepreneurs.

Arancha González, the Executive Director, ITC), said that embracing e- commerce will increase SME’s contribution to the export industry and ultimately reduce the country’s trade deficit.

Rwanda’s Trade and Industry Minister Francois Kanimba, told The New Times that government is embracing e-commerce as part of its strategy to digitise the economy.

“We are taking e-commerce as a key enabler towards boosting SMEs capacity to export; it is also an ingredient that we must leverage on to strengthen private sector’s contribution to the national growth,” Minister Kanimba said adding that government is very much aware promoting ICT as a strategy to greatly enhance efficiency and service delivery.

Janet Nkubana, the Chief Executive officer, Gahaya Links a Rwandan handicraft company, said, the biggest challenges SMEs face include being able to deal with buyers abroad.

“It is often difficult to ship samples to buyers, shoppers to be approved before finally taking the full consignment,” Nkubana told this publication before adding that embracing e-commerce will reduce shipping delays and costs.