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International Consultant–Delivery of an operational and functional SADC Online Trade and Investment Platform that embeds TechniAfrica Platform as its technological component


  • Organization: UNECA - United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • Location: Lusaka
  • Grade: Consultancy - International Consultant - Internationally recruited Contractors Agreement
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Operations and Administrations
    • Development Cooperation and Sustainable Development Goals
    • Banking and Finance
    • Communication and Public Information
    • Sustainable trade and development
    • Impact investing, Social venture capital
  • Closing Date: Closed

Result of Service
An operational and functional SADC Online Trade and Investment Platform that integrates TechniAfrica (Integrated Platform) with at least 300 members.
Work Location
Expected duration
6 months
Duties and Responsibilities
PROJECT BACKGROUND: 1. The advent of the COVID 19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the role that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) can play in supporting businesses, Micro, Small and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in particular, to mitigate the impacts of unexpected shocks. The pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine and other crises have also highlighted the critical need for African economies to reduce their dependence on commodity exports and on narrow economic and export bases, and instead engage in broad-based economic diversification, driven by structural transformation and inclusive industrialisation, supported by trade. 2. Innovation and the application of technology have been widely recognised as important sources of growth, in developed and developing countries alike. Innovation may emerge as an outcome of cooperation between firms and universities/research entities or a product of Research & Development (R&D) by individual enterprises. In developing countries, innovation should be pro-actively supported by the State and supplied as a public good to MSMEs which may find the cost of R&D prohibitive. Increased uptake of STI among MSMEs and Southern African businesses can in turn benefit industrial transformation and trade growth. The capacities of MSMEs to adopt technology and engage in locally adapted innovation have to be addressed through well-targeted support measures and incentives. 3. In addition to technology, the private sector including MSMEs in Southern Africa must increasingly resort to international and regional trade in order to grow and ensure their sustainability. This implies taking advantage of global and regional trade agreements such as the SADC Free Trade Area Agreement, the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Furthermore, businesses in Southern Africa will have to increasingly leverage technology to enhance their global and regional trade competitiveness. 4. In light of the above, the UNECA through its Subregional Office for Southern Africa has supported the SADC Business Council to set up a digital-based platform on Technology and Innovation for MSMEs in Southern Africa. In this regard, SRO-SA and the SADC Business Council jointly organised a Virtual Stakeholder Workshop in 2021 to present and discuss the platform. A brainstorming meeting was also organized in June 2023 in South Africa to gather insights and inputs from relevant stakeholders to guide the finalisation and operationalisation of the platform. 5. The platform, hosted by the SADC Business Council titled for now “TechniAfrica“ is meant to display the following characteristics: (i) be user friendly (ii) allows for interactive discussions among platform members (iii) contains information that is of practical use to entrepreneurs, MSME owners and policymakers in the area of utilizing and applying technology and innovation to enhance productivity and competitiveness of Southern African MSMEs (iv) contains information that is specific to the context of Southern Africa while allowing for comparisons with other subregions of Africa and other regions of the world. Further, it allows for feedback by platform users. 6. TechniAfrica is a technology community portal. The objectives of TechniAfrica are to provide MSMEs in Southern Africa access to information and knowledge on the range of available technologies that they can deploy to help them adjust to the effects of shocks such as Covid-19 and the Ukraine crisis and build their competitiveness in national, regional and global markets. It is also to establish a space for entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and experiences about the development of new technologies and innovation available to enhance productivity of MSMEs in Southern Africa. 7. TechniAfrica focuses on 12 major technology network sectors which are (i) AgriTech (ii) ArtsTech, (iii) DigiTech (iv) EduTech (v) EnTech (vi) FinTech (vii) HealTech (viii) ManuTech (ix) MinTech (x) WaterTech (xi) TransTech and (x) Technology and Innovation Policy Support (T.I.P.S). 8. The platform was intended to perform the following functions: -Provide a space that allows businesses and MSMEs to register with basic information on their activities to facilitate the creation of an online registry of MSMEs and businesses per country and per sector in Southern Africa and serve as an inventory of Southern African businesses; -Provide relevant information on regulatory and policy frameworks (including Science, technology and innovation STI frameworks) faced by MSMEs in Southern Africa per sector and per country and by regional economic community (SADC and COMESA); -Offer relevant information on and demonstrate the role that technology and innovation can play in enhancing productivity and improving competitiveness of MSMEs, in particular how technology can relieve constraints faced by MSMEs (e.g. role of Fintech and Agritech); -Provide information on technologies (tools and applications) available to entrepreneurs to help them relieve constraints to their survival, growth and profitability (e.g. digital technologies to address finance constraints etc); -Showcase how MSMEs in Southern Africa and elsewhere are currently applying technology and innovation to address their challenges in a bid to share best practices and lessons learnt; -Provide information and links to institutions that can support MSMEs in Southern Africa in developing and applying technology to address their challenges; -Be a gateway to access information and knowledge on what is ongoing and upcoming in the technology sphere for businesses (e.g. events, books, articles, trends, links to other platforms that provide specific services for businesses etc); -Serve as a platform where entrepreneurs and MSME owners and employees can share stories and experiences on how they are currently innovating and developing or applying technologies to address their constraints, the challenges they are facing and type of support they need in that context; -Serve as a platform where entrepreneurs can exchange information and ideas on the development of technologies and innovative practices to facilitate their business operations and enhance their productivity; -Serve as a space that allow actors of the innovation ecosystem in Southern Africa to interact and exchange be it MSMEs, Science and technology institutes, Government institutions, larger companies, service providers, specialised technology firms etc. 9. Furthermore, the SADC Business Council is planning to set up and operationalize a SADC Online Trade and Investment Platform (SOTIP). The purpose of this platform is to improve the value, value-added and quality of trade and investment within SADC (among SADC countries - at an intra-regional level and between SADC countries and the rest of Africa and rest the world) in a way that contributes to the development of local and regional economies and helps raise living standards within the SADC region. 10. The platform, SOTIP is intended to serve primarily as an information and networking hub. It can be in a first instance a website where importers and exporters within SADC can (i) register and create their market profiles (serving as a business registry within SADC) and that they can use to position their market products within SADC and outside of SADC; (ii) find useful information about their desired markets within SADC (iii) identify opportunities to participate in value-chains in SADC (iv) connect with suppliers and investors with an interest in doing business within SADC and (v) gather information on how to access business support and finance. This platform will also provide networking opportunities for organisations involved in SADC trade and investment. 11. It will source and share specific opportunities to link with potential customers, investors and support providers. It will also provide a link to relevant African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other trade and digital portals that can allow entrepreneurs to access information on the AfCFTA and trade agreements and how to take advantage of them. It can also serve as a gateway to other relevant business portals in Southern Africa and Africa; 12. The SOTIP will consist of a trade, investment and technology component (the latter will embed the TechniAfrica Platform for MSMEs and businesses). Against the above background, SRO-SA is seeking to recruit an international IT consultant (i) to design and operationalise the SOTIP in line with the functions outlined above and (ii) redesign and operationalise the TechniAfrica Platform in line with the functions outlined above and such that the TechniAfrica Platform becomes the technology component of the SOTIP. The two platforms henceforth referred to as the Integrated Platform. DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Under the general supervision of the Chief, Subregional Initiatives Section, SRO-SA and the direct supervision of the Economic Affairs Officer, Subregional Initiatives Section, SRO-SA, the Successful IT Consultant will have the following list of duties and responsibilities: 1. Work collaboratively with the lead (technical consultant), UNECA, the SADC Business Council and a Committee of Experts to be set up by SRO-SA, to design the Integrated Platform so as to be better aligned with the functions outlined above; 2. The consultant is expected to design and create an Integrated Platform that exhibits the following characteristics: (i) is member-based (ii) allows for advertisements by sponsors (iii) user friendly (iv) allows for interactive discussions among platform members (v) contains information that is of practical use to entrepreneurs, SME owners, businesses, investors, traders and policymakers in the areas of technology and innovation, trade and investment to enhance productivity and competitiveness of Southern African SMEs and businesses (vi) contains information that is specific to the context of Southern Africa while containing comparisons with other African subregions and other regions and (vii) allows for feedback by platform users; 3. Lead the development of the Integrated Platform from an IT perspective that should contain a regional component and national components with Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia included; 4. Pilot test the Integrated Platform among a group of businesses and MSMEs (minimum 150) during a trial period of at about two months; 5. Ensure that the Integrated Platform becomes operational and functional and goes “live” with an initial number of 300 members by December 2024; 6. Support the official launch of the Integrated Platform at the SADC Industrialisation Week 2025 or at a special event; 7. Support the development for the SADC Business Council of a strategy for updating and maintaining the Integrated Platform, working closely with the lead technical consultant. 8. Ensure that the Integrated Platform integrates internationally recognized cyber-security standards and contains the following features: (a) Interactive multimedia-oriented home page design. Multiple banners of inner page (b) Compatible with all main browsers like Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera (c) Web portal should be responsive i.e. compatible to Mobile, Tabs, i-Pad (f) Database driven portal with CMS (Content Management System) and User Management to manage the requirement from Admin Interface by the multiple users (f) Web portal should be free from vulnerabilities. 9. Perform ad-hoc requests as identified by the lead international consultant, UNECA and the SADC Business Council. 10. Provide at least two training sessions to staff of the SADC Business Council on how to operate, maintain and upgrade the Integrated Platform. The general scope of this assignment would include the following: a) Active engagement and consultation with the UNECA, Committee of Experts and the SADC Business Council is expected throughout this implementation. b) The methodology used by the selected consultant should be user-centric, based on the recommendation of the lead technical consultant and the user requirements. c) The Inception Report from the consultant should include the necessary transfer of knowledge, licenses, access to the system, dependencies, and complete working source code of the Integrated Platform should be done before the end of the contract. d) After completion and implementation of the Integrated Platform, the consultant must monitor performance of the Integrated Platform, analyse and submit a recommendation report on how the Integrated Platform can be further sustained and improve helping the project meet its objectives and outcome. e) Implement the web-based platform (front-end and back-end interfaces) using responsive design for use on popular browsers for desktop PCs, notebooks and mobile devices including tablets and smartphones (Android and IOS). f) Design and create all high-quality graphic elements and branding (logos, images, animations, page background, buttons, icons, etc.) for the platform.. g) Provide hosting for the new system in a secured environment, installation of the new Integrated Platform and associated digital resources on the hosting facility. h) Purchase necessary licenses, security certificates, public IP address (if applicable) and any such service which are required for smooth running of the Integrated Platform. i) Implement extensive security measures to address Web-Based Application security risks. j) Conduct full-fledged technical validation of the Integrated Platform through necessary tests to ensure the portal system is fit for use on the Internet including performance load tests, system tests, security and vulnerability tests among others. k) Conduct security audit and resolve all the vulnerabilities found before go-live with the system. p) Assist, and provide necessary handholding to, key users and stakeholders during user acceptance of the system. q) Produce a user manual as well as training video for all those using the Integrated Platform including the administrator. r) Specify system traffic statistics, in particular: number of visitor accesses, keywords typed by Internet users, number of visits, pages visited, geographical origin of visitors, days and time slots of visits, types of browsers used, providers of original access. s) Provide technical support to SADC Business Council on the Integrated Platform for 2 months following the “Go-Live” of the Integrated Platform. Technical support should include, inter-alia: administration of hosting infrastructure and technical component of the platform; technical assistance to designated staff of SADC Business Council for customizing content and layout in the platform; system and performance monitoring; system maintenance and optimization; identify, analyse, troubleshoot and fix issues, errors and bugs; apply upgrades, patches, bug fixes and releases; manage and track incidents and problems; perform system backup and, if required, recovery to ensure uninterrupted service. t) Knowledge transfer and handing over of all components and dependencies of a web-based application to the SADC Business Council including complete updated documentation, source code in working condition, source computer files (HTML pages, graphics, databases, programs, etc.) in working condition, valid licenses, administrator accounts and latest credentials, and any other information or artifact to ensure SADC Business Council can take up the administration, management, customization and technical maintenance of the Integrated Platform independently after the contractual period.
Qualifications/special skills
Advanced University Degree (Master’s Degree or Equivalent) in information systems, software engineering, computer science, engineering, technology or a relevant field is required. A first-level University Degree in combination with two additional years of relevant experience may be accepted in lieu of the Master’s Degree. A minimum of 5 years of relevant work experience in at least one of the following areas is required: software and information systems development. Prior experience at designing and operationalising digital portals is required.
English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. For this consultancy assignment, fluency in English is required. Knowledge of the other is an advantage. Knowledge of another UN Language is an advantage. Fluency in Portuguese is an added advantage.
Additional Information
Not available.
No Fee
This vacancy is now closed.
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