Three people stand at ITC booth inside trade fair

Small businesses from Arab states discuss how to boost growth at summit

22 December 2023
ITC News

The Arab SMEs Summit brought together over 1,000 participants from across Arab States in Marrakech. Organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), the summit ran 12-14 December and explored how to move from ‘Resilience to Prosperity’.

Participating firms and business support organizations explored topics including global and regional socio-economic developments, disruptive business models and technologies, and how to foster inclusive growth for businesses.  

Specialized sessions honed small business skills in specific topics on trade and investment. The International Trade Centre (ITC) organized a session on e-commerce with a focus on industry 4.0,, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to boost online sales. 

ITC also partnered with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to provide firms with a digital toolkit including the Global Trade Helpdesk, Trade4MSMEs, and IP Diagnostics platforms. These tools allow businesses to compare opportunities across markets, to access resources to guide their trade journey, and to understand how to protect their intellectual property rights to build their brand and competitiveness.  

The ITC team contributed to a workshop on the green economy and presented a new approach on digital and green transitions in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Another workshop co-organized with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WIPO gave an overview of the global creative economy. It featured projects that support handicrafts industries, as well as the e-commerce platforms that specialize in commercializing diverse creative products. Practical workshops on e-commerce explored advancements in online trading, using virtual reality to grow sales, and leveraging AI in marketing.  

Entrepreneurs from across the region showed their products at the ITC booth and throughout the SME Opportunity Zone. 

Diana Baalbaki cooked up Lebanese food at her Meals on Wheels, while working on her market entry plan and collecting the certifications needed to take her business abroad. 

The founder of Alchemist brand organic jams and syrups, Stephan El Mur, discussed marketing strategies and which channels might offer the greatest opportunities. 

Aida Kandil, founder of the MyTindy marketplace, talked about how her platform helps thousands of small artisans sell their handicrafts and food products in other economies. She highlighted the persistent challenges to small business in the Arab region, including challenges meeting market requirements, elevated shipping fees, challenges in scaling orders, and limited tech literacy — particularly in the areas of digital marketing and pricing.