Improving Access to Trade and Market Information with SMS/USSD Platforms in Rwanda and UgandaTrade and Market Information Platform

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Sauti’s mobile Trade and Market Information Platform currently reaches over 27,000 cross-border traders across four East African countries.

With the success of Sauti’s mobile Trade and Market Information Platform released in 2017, a year later, Sauti expanded the platform for Rwanda and Uganda. Sauti’s platform is designed to empower women cross-border traders in “low-technology” areas to trade legally, profitably, and safely across East African borders.

challenge

Access to information is critical for cross-border traders to identify trade opportunities, comply with trade regulations, and negotiate favourable prices in foreign markets. However, many women cross-border traders in “low-technology” areas face a number of barriers to accessing this information. 

Baseline data indicated that prior to using Sauti, traders were spending 3.50 to 13 USD on calls to other traders/brokers to access trade and market information, and between 50 minutes and 5 hours for travelling to markets in order to access market information. 

Furthermore, as a result of an increase in phone ownership in the East African Community (EAC) in recent years, with more than 75% of EAC citizens owning a phone, access to information should be easier than ever. However, most of these are simple feature phones primarily used for texting or calls and cannot access online information resources. 

The assignment called for developing a mobile based USSD platform to link key buyers of grains in Rwanda and Uganda with women in cross-border trade to bridge the gap of lacking access to market information.

project

In 2018, in partnership with Profemmes Twese Hamwe and the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (Australia) Direct Aid Program, Sauti expanded it’s mobile Trade and Market Information Platform for Rwandan and Ugandan users. 

Sauti designed and deployed a market information service which provides real-time market prices, exchange rates and regulatory information with specific reference to the Rwanda/Uganda and the Rwanda/DRC border. Cross-border traders interact with the Sauti mobile platform via USSD or WhatsApp from smart or feature phones to access tailored trade and market information. Local research and interviews were conducted to identify information sources and collect platform data. 

The platform was also designed for accessibility in five languages: Kinyarwanda, Lukiga, Luganda, Swahili and English.

results

The platform has benefited over 27,000 cross-border traders (male and female) and has successfully facilitated over 85,000 requests for trade and market information across the EAC. 

The platform has helped traders negotiate better prices at the market and better forex rates with money changers; identify new markets and products within the EAC; diversify products and markets within the EAC; estimate their costs and potential profits; and save time and money by accessing trade and market information on the platform. 

  • All sampled platform users have been able to grow their business revenue and sales as a result of using the platform; 
  • 68% of have been able to identify new products to trade in; and 
  • 90% have identified new regional markets to trade in. 

Traders using Sauti also report that they find it easier to navigate the formal border and understand what taxes and tariffs they need to pay. 76% of surveyed users said that since using Sauti they are more aware of the requirements for clearing their goods through the gazetted border, while 52% are more aware of the taxes applicable to their consignments.

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