The UAE’s export credit agency, Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI), has launched a digital platform aimed at helping exporters secure trade and export finance from commercial banks.

The Trade Finance Gateway platform will enable companies, particularly SMEs, to access ECI-backed loans from commercial lenders.

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is the first lender to have signed up to the platform, which will start onboarding companies in Q1 2022. Additional financial institutions are expected to join the initiative as it develops.

An ECI spokesperson tells GTR banks will offer receivable discounting through the platform, either on a single transaction basis or open book terms, covering multiple deals within a pre-defined revolving credit limit.

The technology will be provided by UAE-based company Crediti Fintech.

The spokesperson says the new platform will be an “important part” of the ECA’s offering for SMEs, with the solution helping to address several challenges currently facing exporters and re-exporters looking to boost their access to working capital.

They say these challenges include time-consuming and confusing trade finance processes, as well inadequate infrastructure for the digital exchange of trade documents.

ECI already offers support to smaller-sized exporters through a separate product, SME Protect, with companies able to apply for a government-backed guarantee on their receivables through the ECA’s website.

The spokesperson says the Trade Finance Gateway will be the “natural evolution” of that product.

“Today, we protect SMEs’ cash flow from non-payments for Dh2bn [worth of] non-oil trade. With this platform, we will be able to enhance their cash flow, by reducing the cost of bank lending.”

“Through this innovative partnership with ECI and Crediti Fintech, we will be able to extend our expertise to an expanding range of UAE businesses, offering vital support to exporters of all sizes,” says Shireesh Bhide, head of corporate, commercial and international Banking at FAB.

Efforts to digitalise trade in the UAE have been gathering pace this year, with UAE Trade Connect, a trade finance solution that addresses the risk of double financing and fraud in the country, having moved into full commercial production.

As reported by GTR, the platform formally went live with seven UAE-based commercial banks, including FAB, in April.