Trade Report Identifies Online Tool As Catalyst for SME Business

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Emma Okonji

To help businesses succeed in the new mobile economy, business owners need to understand their current environment, and take full advantage of the available online tools to excel. This was the view of the ‘Future of Business Survey’, a unique window into the new digital and mobile economy, created by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), FaceBook and the World Bank, for international trade reporting.

In September 2016, the OECD, World Bank, and Facebook collaborated to launch the ‘Future of Business Survey’, a new source of information on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Having operated for one year, the group, this week, released its latest report from the investigation carried out to determine how online tools play a role in SMEs’ ability to trade internationally and, consequently, to grow.

To respond to these issues, the group added a new module to the Future of Business Survey over the period March-May 2017, from which they obtained responses from 49,081 SMEs globally.

Analysing the key findings of the report, the group said, consistent with past results, SMEs that trade internationally are more confident and more likely to increase jobs.

The report also revealed that most SMEs, who export goods and services, rely on online tools to trade internationally. Nearly half of exporting SMEs, about 45 per cent report that more than 75 per cent of their international sales depend on online tools.
SMEs attribute growth in revenue, resources, and employees to their use of online tools to trade internationally, since about 58 per cent of exporters agree that using online tools for selling internationally has increased their revenue.
The survey however discovered that International trade is a challenge to SMEs, and only a minority of SMEs trade internationally. Almost half of exporters, about 48 per cent identified “selling to foreign countries” as a challenge, the report said.

The Future of Business Survey is a collaboration between Facebook, the OECD and the World Bank to provide monthly data on the perceptions, challenges, and outlook of online Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The survey includes questions about perceptions of current and future economic activity, challenges, business characteristics and strategy.

The target population consists of the 60 million SMEs that have an active Facebook business page and includes both newer and longer-standing businesses, spanning a variety of sectors.

A random sample of firms, representing the target population in each country, Nigeria inclusive, is selected to respond to the Future of Business Survey each month. With more businesses using online tools each day, the survey provides a lens into a new digital economy and, in particular, insights on business owners, in relation to considerable policy interest.

When the survey was initially launched in February 2016, it included 22 countries, but today, it includes 42.
The 42 Future of Business countries now represent economies accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s population and 73 per cent of global GDP.