Somalia’s federal government says its new information portal on trade will help it to further improve business with neighbours.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) last week launched its Trade Information Portal, terming it as a one-stop centre for accessibility to international trade related information, according to MoCI’s Director General Abdiaziz Ibrahim.
The idea is for local importers and exporters, to access necessary details on quality levels, available standardisation as well as the licences needed for each category of goods.
Officially launched in the capital, Mogadishu, the portal makes the Horn of Africa country the sixth to establish a trade information portal in the Eastern Africa region, following the example of several of the East African Community member states who have pushed this kind of information online.
The EAC includes Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, which have all launched similar portals. South Sudan, the sixth member is yet to do that.
The Somalia Trade Information Portal (STIP) is available on www.stip.gov.so, with information given in the English and Somali languages.
Somalia’s State Minister for Commerce and Industry, Abdulkadir Sharif Shekuna Maye, said the portal is a vital instrument installed to direct business owners and investors to trade and regulatory information.
“STIP was designed to give users a way into various standard forms, deliberately made-easy charts and procedures showing the means of getting, among others, government licensing, permits and guides to the imports and exports to and from Somalia,” Mr Maye said in a note on the portal.
Somalia Minister of Commerce and Industry Khalif Omar told the EastAfrican that his portfolio has established STIP to enable the business community have their frequently asked information readily answered either through the documents provided or via online information seeking.
“STIP is a platform to assist all sorts of businesses, whether start-ups or [established ones], importers or exporters,” he said in an interview on phone, adding that the portal was especially crafted to help women business owners find solutions to hurdles preventing them from securing much needed finances.
MoCI departments assigned to administer the site promise to provide up-to-date trade related regulatory reports with a timely feedback system for responding to inquiries inquiries.
The Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), an association that stands for the promotion of business in the country says the information is welcome
“The portal appears [has] a fresh innovative system that provides solutions in an easy and fast manner,” SCCI Deputy Chairman Abdurahman Galanbi stated.
“The portal welcomes all businesses and investors seeking regulatory stuffs, measures, standards, procedures, trade guidance and all manners of complying with tariffs, duties and levies.”
Women in business
Back in 2019, women in business representing Somali Women Entrepreneurs Association (SWEA) indicated lack of access to capital, finance and trade information was the main hindrance to their activities.
Some of the entrepreneurs hope the new system will offer practical guides for advancing their businesses.
Ms Mariam Obsiye, SWEA secretary-general, told the EastAfrican: “Somali women in business face multiple obstacles including a glass barrier between the female-owned, female-run businesses and sources of capital and finances.”
Ms Iqra Dhool, the director of Somali Women in Business (SWIB), who attended the STIP launch, promised to propagate the new scheme among members of the network she leads.
“I will share the site with our association, anticipating they will find easier ways of capturing all the basics of trade at national and international levels,” she said.
The information is pooled from ministries and agencies that collated information on licences, laws, standardisation, supported by the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the European Union and UK and Danish governments.
The partners say STIP is expected to improve the predictability and transparency of the country’s business environment and provide foreign and domestic investors with quick and timely access to trade rules and regulations.
“One of the ministry’s aspirations was to realise an internet-based trade portal to provide business information for exporters and importers,” Mr Omar said.
“A galaxy of information at hand will boost the exportation of products from traditional sources like fisheries, agricultural and livestock, and help with venturing into other untapped sources.”