Government of Rwanda hosted World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Kigali through Rwanda Development Board on September 15 – 17, 2014. Geneva based International Trade Centre (ITC) organized the big event with exclusive focus on assisting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It brought together senior national and international policymakers, heads of trade support organizations, business leaders and representatives of international agencies.
President of Rwanda Mr. Paul Kagame inaugurated the plenary session. The parallel meeting was also attended by the First Lady of Ethiopia who spoke at Women Vender's Exhibition and Forum.
Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (OIA) was invited to participate as a delegate. Chairman OIA, Ambassador V.B.Soni represented the organization. Speakers at the session 'Unlocking SME competitiveness for diversification' also included Rwanda's Minister of Trade and Industry, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union, Ambassador V.B.Soni, Senior Director, World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness among others.
This session set the scene for WEDF 2014 by focusing on strategies and initiatives to unlock the international competitiveness of SMEs and to strengthen their ability to link up to international markets on a sustainable basis.
Ambassador Soni highlighted the importance of ICT for India's economic development. "India took a jump from colonial production structures to a service-based economy, thanks to ICT."
The Indian government is focusing on giving SMEs opportunities to become suppliers within manufacturing industries. This, however, requires changes in the way value chains operate. "A structural issue is the presence of a large group of middlemen securing substantial profits for themselves, to the detriment of the supplying SMEs and to the customers who pay high prices."
Ambassador Soni pointed out that the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) plays a key role in training and capacitating SMEs. "Common shortcomings of SMEs are design, lack of access to inputs and marketing as well as packaging and supply logistics."
Ambassador Soni pointed to the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC), offered by the Ministry of External Affairs. Under ITEC and its sister programme SCAAP (Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme), 161 countries in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific are invited to share in the India's development experience and learn from the competence of India as a provider of technical know-how. ITEC offers training to foreign students within a range of areas including business development. Ambassador Soni extended an invitation to the African countries to encourage entrepreneurs to apply for this free training.