World Trade Organization Says eBay Champions Small Businesses

Hanne Melin and Fabian Stächelin, eBay EMEA

The recognition highlights eBay’s work to promote economic development in underserved areas.

What if we tried to facilitate international selling for entrepreneurs in underserved areas on our platform? What impact could we have on these communities? What new and unique inventory could we source? And what would it take?

eBay partnered with the International Trade Center (ITC) in an attempt to answer these questions. This is a joint development agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations, with which we happen to share a common goal purpose: wanting to see more small businesses participate in and benefit from the global economy. And recently, the WTO recognized eBay for our work as a champion for small businesses in international trade in its Small Business Champions Initiative

There is immense social and economic value to be realized by broadening trade participation to include more small enterprises from more places. Studies have shown that international businesses are more productive and resilient. As almost any country is dominated by micro and small enterprises, most economies stand to gain from facilitating their access to world markets. For over five years, our Public Policy Lab has produced research showing that eBay does just that.

The Policy Lab’s research tells us that eBay is used as an export platform by small enterprises in both advanced and emerging economies. Nowhere else do small businesses trade internationally to the extent seen on eBay. On average, small businesses from all over the world sell to buyers in more than 20 different countries annually. In the “traditional economy,” only a fraction of small and independent firms are international and they reach only a handful of markets. 


We are still exploring how best to combine eBay’s platform and technology with ITC’s experience from expanding traditional trade opportunities in developing countries and its network of small businesses in emerging markets.  But we believe we are on to something in how we are collaborating with the ITC SheTrades program.

Through a joint application process, we have singled out 50 women entrepreneurs in primarily Kenya, Morocco and South Africa (check out Sanabora, Wazawazi and Adele Dejak). They are all committed to expanding their existing businesses through eBay and, as part of the project, they are offered a free eBay store subscription for a year, onboarding support and regular training on eBay-specific and general ecommerce issues.

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This is not a short-term project for quick sales growth. It is an experiment to build eBay communities in underserved areas at low cost. Perhaps above all, it is a way to demonstrate that platforms and technology are powerful ways of enabling more people in more places to participate in global commerce.

It is extremely rewarding to have the WTO endorse the eBay platform as a way to make the trading system more inclusive and benefiting more people. Encouraged, we will continue driving the SheTrades project forward as we look to expand the model to new partners and new markets. And the Policy Lab will continue explaining to the world the economic and social impact eBay is having.