WTO INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES (MSMES): Working Group announces Small Business Champions, Trade4MSMEs update and new Trade Game

The Informal Working Group on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) on 27 June commemorated MSME Day by announcing three new small business champions, unveiling a revamped Trade4MSMEs platform and releasing “The Trade Game” intended to help MSMEs navigate the complexities of international trade. A panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges for smallholder farmers in international trade was also held.

Working Group announces Small Business Champions, Trade4MSMEs update and new Trade Game

Small Business Champions

The three winners of the 2023 Small Business Champions Competition are Divasity.com of Nigeria, which provides a marketplace for start-ups and entrepreneurs to connect with tools and technology for business growth; an agricultural cooperative, Coprogeny of Cameroon, which promotes all agricultural activities, with the aim of enhancing agricultural value chains; and Hey Success of the Philippines, which offers consultancy and professional services to small businesses.

The third edition of the Small Business Champions Competition was held under the theme “Helping smallholder farmers go global”. It was jointly organized by the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, International Trade Centre (ITC) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

During an award ceremony, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed her appreciation for the proposals submitted. She pointed out that smallholder farmers represent 8.5% of MSMEs in developing economies and produce a third of the food grown worldwide. She said: “Projects like those proposed for this championship can make a difference. They provide capacity building through training and access to finance that opens doors and leads to more sustainable development.” ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton and ICC Secretary General John Denton also delivered opening remarks.

Updated Trade4MSMEs portal, new Trade Game

The Working Group on MSMEs launched an update of Trade4MSMEs, an online portal with step-by-step guides to help small companies build their knowledge on how to trade internationally. The platform also aims to help policymakers design measures tailored to the needs of small companies.

The updated platform provides more user-friendly interactivity and streamlines information for policymakers and businesses. A new feature of the platform is “explore by region”, which presents trade profiles and other useful information on economies within a particular region.

The Chair of the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, Ambassador Matthew Wilson of Barbados, acknowledged various contributors to the Trade4MSMEs portal, including the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) and WTO members such as Canada and the United Kingdom. “Data and intelligence must be honest, accurate, validated and easy-to access,” he stated. “This is what the Trade4MSMEs website aims to do – put data and intelligence at the fingertips of policy makers and MSMEs.” Ambassador Wilson’s message on MSME Day is available here.

Barbados’ Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Business Development, the Honourable Sandra Husbands, called upon MSMEs to “seize this moment in time as an opportunity to reset both your thinking and your practice, to embrace your uniqueness, leverage your collective brilliance and create new pathways for personal and national wealth generation and global influence.”

The Group also launched a new trade game that tests players’ ability to navigate the complexities of international trade under specific time and budgetary constraints. The game invites players to answer critical decision-making questions that reflect the experiences of MSMEs seeking to trade. Deputy Director-General Anabel González described it as “a ground-breaking initiative to explore export readiness”. She added: “Trade4MSMEs is pushing a new frontier with the Trade Game”.

Panel discussion on smallholder farmers and international trade

A panel discussion explored the different perspectives of public and private sector stakeholders in helping smallholder farmers trade internationally. The panel included representatives of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Family Agriculture in Brazil, the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) Southeast and Pacific Asia, and a South African agricultural supply chain integrator. The discussion was moderated by Mr Ercole de Vito, agri-food lead at the ICC.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said: “When seeking to access international markets, smallholder farmers face even greater challenges than other small businesses. Besides difficulties accessing information about trade procedures, they have to comply with regulatory requirements, such as safety and health-related procedures, that may be challenging to understand or find clear instructions for. Looking at ways that trade policymakers can support them is important work and I hope that this can be the start of future exchanges.”