Estonia is giving entrepreneurs across the world the same rights as Estonian business owners through its e-Residency program. With digital residency, entrepreneurs can start a business, sign contracts and open bank accounts within the EU free trade zone. The initiative aims to help entrepreneurs in developing countries — particularly women and marginalised groups – profit from the growth of global e-commerce.
Results & Impact
The eTrade For All program eliminates many of the financial and bureaucratic barriers entrepreneurs in developing countries face to accessing EU markets. Business owners in 137 countries are already taking part in the scheme.
The government of Estonia, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment
eTrade For All was formed by the Estonian government and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to integrate developing world entrepreneurs into global trade. With e-Residency, entrepreneurs can digitally sign contracts, open bank accounts, use international payment providers and sell to European clients. In India, Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment, a non-profit, is helping women develop ideas and start online businesses through individual coaching. To become e-residents, entrepreneurs have to submit an application and pay a filing fee of $110. Successful applicants receive a secure digital identity through a smart ID card issued by the Estonian government.
Entrepreneurs, women, low-income people, ethnic minorities
Cost & Value
Running since April 2017
Women in developing countries are a third less likely to have Internet access than men, which will make it more difficult for them to access the benefits of eTrade For All.
Estonia is empowering small-scale entrepreneurs in developing countries to start online businesses through its e-Residency program, which eliminates many of the financial and bureaucratic barriers to accessing EU markets.
Through e-Residency, an entrepreneur based anywhere in the world can remotely establish a business, sign contracts, use international payment providers and open bank accounts within the EU free trade zone.
Estonia’s unique digital residency program was established in 2014 to attract new business and investors to the sparsely populated country. Estonia partnered with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in April 2017 to form eTrade For All, a digital trade platform championed by Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Ma, who serves as an advisor for the project, predicts that 90% of worldwide trade will be conducted online thirty years from now. Through eTrade For All, the partners aim to help small-scale entrepreneurs — particularly women and marginalised groups in low-income countries – profit from the growth of global e-commerce.
In a statement, the UNCTAD said eTrade For All is “crucial to helping unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential.” The program is currently running as a pilot project, with entrepreneurs in 137 countries participating.
Female entrepreneurs in Delhi, India, are already taking advantage of eTrade For All to establish and manage online businesses that operate in the EU. Indian non-profit Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE) is helping UNCTAD and Estonia get the project off the ground. Through one-on-one mentorship, WEE helps participants develop concrete ideas and turn them into online businesses. WEE was launched by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and is supported by the Indian government’s Science and Technology Department.
To take part in eTrade For All, entrepreneurs have to submit an application and pay a filing fee of $110. Successful applicants receive a secure digital identity through a “smart ID card” issued by the Estonian government. The program gives remote entrepreneurs the same rights as Estonian business owners, without access to citizenship, physical residency or tax residency.
Business owners in developing countries face a number of barriers to selling products or services online, including bureaucratic challenges, poor banking and Internet infrastructure, government instability and lack of access to international payment providers. Many entrepreneurs from low-income countries also find it difficult to earn international customers’ trust.
Additionally, women in developing countries are a third less likely to have Internet access than men, according to the ONE organisation.
(Picture credit: Flickr/Rod Waddington)