Blockchaining international trade: A way forward for women’s economic empowerment?

Mexico - 19 August 2020

Trade topics: Digital Trade, Gender and Trade

Blockchain technology holds considerable promise to boost women’s participation in international trade. Blockchain’s anonymity and efficiency could enable many women, who otherwise would be constrained by law, custom or high costs, to engage in financial and business transactions. Blockchain can be used to enable women who lack identification documents to undertake transactions that otherwise would require official identification, and to prove their ownership of assets without interventions from male family members. Blockchain can help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), more than 30 per cent of which are owned by women, to overcome costs associated with exporting and importing, and interact easily with consumers, other businesses engaged in the supply chain, customs officers and regulatory bodies. Blockchain also can increase women farmers’ access to information on crops and market conditions, thus improving their bargaining position. However, if not regulated properly, the expanded use of blockchain also could increase the relative return to sophisticated technology skills that men are more likely to have, and increase the digital divide between men and women. The World Trade Organization (WTO) could play a key role in developing guidelines for the use of blockchain in international trade to support the efficient and inclusive adoption of blockchain technology.