SDF to develop e-commerce platform and support start-ups

SAARC Development Fund (SDF), the cross border project umbrella financing institution for SAARC member states is in the process of developing an e-commerce platform for enabling seamless trade of goods and services across SAARC member states.

It will also fund start ups, giving a fillip to budding entrepreneurs in the region.

SDF has committed to regional integration and economic connectivity in the region through Cross Border Regional Project Funding and collaborations.

SDF CEO, Dr Sunil Motiwal said a proposal to develop a cross border e-commerce platform along with a SAARC money card for the common people across the region is in the stage of finalization.

The CEO also added the start-up program would include entrepreneurs as well in areas like renewal energy, agriculture and health and microenterprises especially in micro small and medium enterprise (MSME) segments and also confirmed that SDF is currently considering bankable projects in the areas of infrastructure, economic and MSME segments of markets in the SAARC region.

A business meeting with multilateral organizations and financial institutions was held to rope them in enhancing the credit portfolio of the SDF. SDF already achieved and disbursed US$ 47mn in 12 cross border projects and granted in principal approvals to two energy cross-border projects with a commitment of US$ 30mn.

Established in 2010 by the heads of eight SAARC member states, SDF has so far completed the financial closure of US$ 73.75mn of which US$ 47mn has already been disbursed.

The CEO also said entrepreneurs can come up with a proposal which will be funded by the SD. The capital base should be US$ 500mn and the common e-commerce platform has a great potential for enhancing the intra-SAARC trade and services, he added.

“The region has the age profile of 15-24 years, a perfect fit for online business. Besides, it has a huge pool of skilled manpower, low cost workforce and abundant natural resources,” the SDF CEO said.

Currently, only 4% of the total trade of the SAARC member states is taking place within the region. This can be increased significantly by initiatives like e-commerce and booming business across the world. Stakeholders can work on building common facilities for logistics, warehousing and transportation.

The SDF’s Partnership Conclave in New Delhi on July 2 and 3 deliberated on a number of issues concerning trade in the region. The delegates from eight countries raised issues like speedier visa by the member states, currency and payment facilitation, trade facilitation at the borders, financial connectivity and reviving the SAFTA into a dynamic trade zone.

Tshering from Thimphu