Inspiration:

The US enacted the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to lower trade barriers and spur economic growth in about 40 African nations. While US-Africa trade has grown since the law was enacted, most of the trade dividends however, have been scooped up by big companies. In Kenya, for example, only 10% of Kenya's SMEs are benefiting from AGOA. SMEs disproportionately face regulatory uncertainty and costly tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Stronger participation of SMEs in global trade could yield significant benefits including enhanced productivity, business scale, and employment growth.

Some helpful information exists online to help SMEs consider on a wider range exporting to the U.S, but it is sparse and not easily understood by an average sub-saharan entrepreneur.

What it does:

This tool seeks to address external factors impeding SMEs participation in global trade such as access to market research, export standards, as well as regulatory information about target foreign market - the US in this case. Our solution consists in an interactive chatbot that gives the possibility to the user to do anything among the following:

  • Assess the user’s SME readiness to export to the US through a quiz.
  • Provide a readiness guide so that the SME can quickly get an understanding if it’s on the right track or not yet, and what it needs to get ready.
  • Provide valuable information about regulations for the SME to export its products to the U.S.

How it's built:

  • We have developed a Messenger bot with a few webviews, using React.
  • Our tool is also available in French and English, since the majority of the countries that are part of AGOA speak English or French.

Challenges it run into:

Finding and vetting relevant content is challenging. This task could be outsourced in the future to keep the information relevant and up-to-date.

Accomplishments:

  • We have successfully managed to put together a set of relevant and useful information for our MVP. This one concerns SMEs from Kenya that want to export to the US.
  • We have been able to integrate that information in a deployed Messenger Bot.
  • We have been able to redirect relevant additional content to a few web views.

What's Next?

  • Translating the information to Portuguese as well as it’s the main language spoken in Angola and Cape Verde, especially that Angola represents an important contributor to the Sub-Saharan African export market.
  • Incorporating more relevant content concerning a broader range of products and countries.

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