With the goal of connecting small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) from Latin America and the Caribbean region that want to expand their business, participate in international commerce, and obtain access to financing, the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) presents ConnectAmericas.com, the region’s first business social network.
According to Ady Beitler, Operations Director of Connect Americas, the network was designed by the IDB to bring SMEs simple access to potential customers, providers, and investment opportunity in the region and in the rest of the world.
“There are actually 4 million small and medium sized businesses in Latin America, representing 90 percent of all businesses, and generating more than 50% of the employment in the region,” says Beitler. “Only 13 percent of those participate in international commerce, while in other regions in Europe or Asia-Pacific that percentage is double or more.”
According to the IDB representative, in the targeted groups, the challenges facing SMEs when they try to enter international markets include: Lack of trustworthy contacts to establish a business relationship, Access to commercial data pertinent to respective global markets, and a lack of financing.
Connections, Learning, Financing
ConnectAmericas.com is already present in 26 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, facilitating Access to world markets across three initiatives, explained Beitler. Those three are named Connect, Learn, and Finance.
According to Beitler, with Connect, companies create a profile about their commercial interests, and the system automatically puts them in touch with other compatible enterprises and suggests sector based communities. “(The network) offers trust and transparency. With this it shows that it is a real company with which one can do business,” he explained. Using this network it is possible to ascertain the reputation of a business, the experience that others have had with it, and to establish contacts with other organizations in the region and the world.
The Learn initiative provides Access to tariff and customs information, regulations, knowledge on how to Access international markets and how to export using intuitive online tools. “Businesses that belong to the network have access to free courses on e-commerce, for example,” said Beitler.
Finally, with the Finance initiative, growing businesses can access financing products and services offered by local banks, details on the IDB international trade programs, and a vast network of affiliated banks capable of supporting international trade efforts of SMEs.
Aside from Latin America and the Caribbean, businesses from 24 other countries that want to do business with the region have registered, added Beitler. From there, the interest is growing in the business social network. “The more businesses that sign up, the better. The platform is free; the goal is not to make money for IDB, but for development in the Americas,” he said.
Connect Americas already has the support of businesses such as DHL Express, Google, Visa and Alibaba.com, the Chinese e-commerce giant. “SMEs represent 90% of our clients and we understand their needs,” said Antonio Arranz, Director General of DHL Express Mexico. “We offer our experience in customs, and expertise in logistics to connect with the markets in the USA, China, and the rest of the world,” said Arranz.