The Common Market Protocol was signed in November, 2009. Its provisions have greatly eased the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. This has produced a wealth of opportunities for the private sector to grow the East African economy through intra-EAC trade. However, for many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs the opportunities generated by the Common Market Protocol remain untapped. One of the main reasons is also one of the most simple – a basic lack of information on EAC policies and regulations as well as business opportunities in the East African market.
To address this, Vision 4 Youth responded to IIDEA’s call for applications with an innovative solution. Soko Mkononi (Market at Hand) is comprised of an online portal and SMS app. Through it, SMEs will be able to stay easily and reliably updated on EAC policies on cross-border trade. Moreover, it provides a platform for SMEs to make their products visible on the East African Market as well as discover new opportunities. The online portal also provides technical advice to small businesses on how to successfully grow their business.
After only three months, the online platform was launched in the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, then in Kampala, Uganda. Although it is still in development, Soko Mkononi’s online portal has already attracted over 2,000 visitors in the first month since its launch. In the coming months, the SMS app will also be launched to allow those who are unable to access internet to still be able to access the EAC market.
As they continue to develop Soko Mkononi, Vision 4 Youth and their partners have found that a persistent challenge is accessing up-to-date policies and regulations in Partner States. As such, they have recommended that the EAC Secretariat do more to pressure Partner States to make this information readily available to the citizens of East Africa.
Knowledge is power. By knowing how to harness the full potential of the Common Market Protocol, citizens will be empowered to lead East Africa towards a truly people-centered and market-driven integration. Projects like Soko Mkononi play an important role in realizing this vision for East Africa.
If you want to know more, click on this link access Soko Mkononi.