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The Evolution of Trade

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By Lulu Kiritu

Trade is an ever evolving industry. Year by year, century by century, it changes and advances. Trading in the past was not only a slow process, but a tedious one as well.  Over the years, human beings have created solutions and made it easy, fast and convenient. The growth of infrastructure has played a big part in advancing trade. Now, moving goods from one place to another has become easy as a result of advanced trade.  Connecting with suppliers as well as purchasing and selling goods locally and internationally is now convenient due to technological advancements. 

Information Technology and the internet was introduced in Africa during the 1990s by a Ghanaian scientist and engineer, Nii Narku Quaynor. This technology, at first, was aimed at helping African countries overcome connectivity barriers. However, overtime, the technological advancement not only enhanced connectivity, but also transformed societies and economies. People were able to easily access any kind of market information and as result, there was a lot of growth in different sectors. In Kenya, the internet was not always embraced as it is now. About 20 years ago, in the mid-1990s, the sector was not condoned by the political system. According to the Internal Journal for Kenya, the system saw the growth of the ICT industry as a threat to their power and control over information flow. Amidst the challenges of introducing ICT to Kenya, there was a light at the end of a tunnel in 1999 when the internet was officially recognised and accepted. 

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The year is 2021 and as a result of an ever advancing technological environment in Kenya, trade could not be better! The trade industry continues to experience exponential growth. Trade processes and procedures have advanced, bringing about ease and convenience to traders.  Different organisations as well as agencies are now automating their systems. The Kenya Trade Network Agency being one of them, has and continues to ensure that they provide a fast and reliable system for traders and stakeholders to carry out their import and export processes. In the past, traders carried out their trade processes physically. This means that traders moved from office to office to get their documents approved or processed. Most traders complained that this process was lengthy, tedious and expensive. In 2013, KenTrade solved this problem when they launched the Kenya TradeNet system, with the aim of facilitating trade, customs clearance, competitiveness and reducing the cost of trade. Over the years, this system has helped over 12,000 users in conducting fast and efficient trade and as a result, this has helped promote the economy. 

While the TradeNet system is effective in cargo clearance procedures, the procedures in relation to ship, crew, passengers and luggage remained manual, duplicated and prolonged. To solve this problem, KenTrade partnered with the Kenya Maritime Authority and recently launched the Maritime Single Window System. This new system helps facilitate ship clearance procedures by providing a single online portal for the declaration of information on the arrival, stay and departure of ships between the shipping line/agent and the approving government agencies involved in the process. This is a clear indication that agencies and companies ought to advance their systems from time to time and introduce new and better solutions to help accommodate growth.

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Trade is an ever-growing industry and Information Technology has indeed led to the democratisation of data making all manner of data readily available to the masses. This has led to interconnection among people of geographic entities, which is crucial in the advancement of trade. Technology has surely revolutionised trade within a short period of time. With the ever changing and growing systems in technology, I truly cannot wait to see what the future holds for Trade.

Lulu Kiritu is a Nairobi-based Public Relations Practitioner

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