Connecting entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and refugee camps in Kenya to international markets for food, fashion, home décor products and online services. Drawing venture capital into Uganda’s burgeoning tech sector and catalyzing investment to revive the Caribbean’s coconut industry. Market intelligence tools that help governments better target trade promotion efforts and equip small businesses to take advantage of trade agreements.
These are among the highlights of the International Trade Centre’s 2018 activities covered in its new annual report. The report will serve as the basis for discussions at the 2 July session of the Joint Advisory Group (JAG), the annual meeting at which government delegates review ITC’s activities and make recommendations for its work to the agency’s parent institutions, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
The report opens by setting out the economic context in which ITC operated in 2018, a year that saw protectionist rhetoric give way to unilateral trade measures covering a sizeable share of international commerce.
Despite this troubled backdrop, ITC’s technical assistance and capacity building continued to make trade work for people and communities on the margins of the global economy.
In 2018, an estimated $1.1 billion in export and investment value resulted from ITC market intelligence, business connections, and support to trade promotion organizations. ITC delivered a record level of technical assistance, capacity building and innovative analysis, with expenditures of $100 million across all budgets. A record $64 million in extra-budgetary funding – voluntary financial contributions that are distinct from the annual contributions from the WTO and the UN – attested to strong demand for ITC services, as well as to funders’ confidence in ITC to meet this demand.
ITC organizes its interventions into fifteen programmes. The annual report describes each programme’s key achievements in 2018, from the $308 million in trade transactions facilitated by ITC’s market intelligence tools, to $32 million in export-oriented investment by Indian companies in eastern and southern Africa.
For each of the six main focus areas of ITC's work – providing trade and market intelligence; building a conducive business environment; strengthening trade and investment support institutions; connecting to value chains; promoting inclusive and green trade; and supporting regional economic integration and South-South links – the report includes two case studies to illustrate how ITC projects are having an impact on the ground. One of these cases describes how ITC is supporting Sri Lanka to improve its business environment for trade and meet its ambitious goals for trade-led growth and development. Another describes how ITC is working to help young Gambian entrepreneurs access financing to start and grow businesses, lifting incomes and creating jobs.
On the analytical front, the year’s edition of ITC’s flagship research report, the SME Competitiveness Outlook, looked at the digital revolution. It proposed concrete steps developing-country governments and trade and investment support institutions could take to enable micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to benefit from powerful tech platforms and big data.
One theme running through the report is the use of online mechanisms, whether for MSMEs to access market intelligence, report trade-related obstacles to government authorities, or to connect to potential buyers around the world. Another is the growing importance of trade-related investment in ITC’s portfolio.
“Ending extreme poverty will be impossible unless marginalized countries, communities and small businesses are empowered to connect to the economic mainstream,” ITC Executive Director Arancha González wrote in her foreword to the report, referring to a key objective of the international community’s development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals. “ITC’s work will continue to focus on the countries and communities at the bottom of the pyramid, which is where we will either achieve the SDGs or fall short.”