The project “Developing SMEs exports through Virtual Market Places” is an innovative project, which aims at unlocking the untapped economic growth potential of SMEs in the MENA region in order to generate employment and more inclusive social and economic development. The project has been prepared in the context of the Deauville Partnership and administrated by the World Bank with the technical support of ITC.
This project is based on results of extensive demand surveys among SMEs from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. From almost 300 companies responded, 88% of the SMEs were familiar with the concept of Virtual Market Places (VMPs). SMEs felt that the VMPs have a positive impact on opening new markets and foster regional integration. For this to happen, the respondents emphasized that there is a need to address business environment issues, to provide business intelligence for an effective use of the VMPs and to build the capacity of SMEs to really benefit from participating in the VMPs and use them as value-added export channels.
Currently, MENA SMEs are largely absent from VMPs and not visible for the millions of e-buyers around the world. Insufficient understanding of how markets operate through e-commerce and lacked access to trade intelligence are among the reasons hampering SMEs` use of VMPs.
The project focuses on building the capacity of 600 selected SMEs in Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia (200 companies in each country).
This project will strengthen the skills of SMEs to effectively use new technologies to enhance their visibility on international markets and increase their business and market share. It covers three priority product groups: specialized gourmet agro-processed foods, handicrafts and services. These products were selected because there is evidence of regular and increased international demand through online platforms, and they represent an important part of exports from the three countries.
It is expected that a relatively high return in terms of economic value will be achieved as US $1 invested in e-commerce yields on average a US $4 return in additional revenue for beneficiary SMEs.
Through this project, which focuses on the access to global markets through VMPs, it is expected that beneficiary SMEs will implement new strategies and adopt new business models which will improve their competitiveness and enable them to penetrate new markets using business intelligence that will be supported by the project as well.