In 2019, the Private Sector Federation of Rwanda (PSF) launched its 5 years strategic plan focusing on capability development, research and advocacy, green economy, and digitalization.
Among emerging areas for intentional development from that strategic plan was the message that there was a clear need for private sector members and companies need to be given attention and integrate digitization into their development strategies and day-to-day plans. With this scope, all PSF organs were tasked to adopt digitalization hence leading by example its company members.
This came at a time whereby technological advancements in Rwanda over the past two decades have elevated the country to the League of Africa’s most innovative countries. This has provided an excellent basis upon which new innovations can be established in every sector of the economy. Due to affirmative action and political goodwill, women in Rwanda have taken an active role in leadership both at the local and national levels.
To illustrate the key role that women play in national affairs, statistics show that even with the female population currently at 51 per cent, women still hold the lion’s share of parliamentary seats at over 60 per cent. Indeed, the country has long held the global record for the highest proportion of women parliamentarians.
It is in recognition of this background that the Specialized cluster of the Private Sector Federation (PSF-SC) decided to further promote the activities of women traders in the country by creating an innovative online platform, www.iSOKO.com that has been launched today 17 August 2023 at the margin of the ongoing Golden Business Forum.
This platform can be accessed on the web or through smartphones and is designed to assist women in business to buy and sell goods and services throughout East Africa.
We are particularly grateful to TradeMark Africa and Global Affairs Canada for enabling the development of this integrated information platform that will provide key information – free of charge – regarding markets, trading procedures, and even how to report sexual harassment wherever it may occur.
The iSOKO platform is responsive and inclusive providing access even for feature phone users through a USSD code.
Digitalization of trade through iSOKO creates a much-needed convenience by reducing the amount of travel required by cross-border traders. This is a plus for women who are often faced with time constraints owing to their busy schedules managing both their homes and businesses.
The iSOKO platform also provides a solution for the various trade support services needed by women in trade including logistics. The application includes a list of trusted and reliable logistics service providers across the entire East African region.
Having already been launched in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi, Rwanda’s women now join a thriving community of thousands of iSOKO users.
We urge women entrepreneurs in Rwanda to make use of this novelty to push their businesses to new frontiers. Registration is free and without cumbersome procedures.
We call on all our partners to support and be part of this journey leading to the transformation and digitization of businesses owned by women, young, and people with disabilities (determination) entrepreneurs operating in Rwanda. Let’s all together champion digitalization in Rwanda and Africa.