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Digital Acceleration Dialogue: Enabling MSME E-commerce in Southeast and South Asia

Southeast and South Asia, Virtual

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the digital revolution, transforming how businesses operate, engage with clients and deliver goods and services. While the digital revolution has been accelerated, there is a risk of leaving segments of the population behind. Women-owned MSMEs have been affected disproportionately by the pandemic; this is because their business operations are often smaller and/or in the informal sector, their profits are lower and women-owned enterprises have less cash holdings than male owned enterprises, increasing the impact a financial shock has on the sustainability of their business.


This dialogue discussed these challenges, while findings concrete public and private sector solutions to further enable MSME e-commerce in Southeast and South Asia.


Together, ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme and the eTrade Alliance hosted an action oriented, 4-hour virtual workshop on December 4th, 2020 to discuss the following:


  • Challenges to MSME e-commerce and cross-border e-commerce in Southeast and South Asia;


  • Policy, programmatic, and technology solutions to these challenges in four key areas (MSME access to finance, capacity-building, payment solutions, logistics and trade facilitation); and


  • Pilot program ideas to operationalize these solutions to accelerate MSME e-commerce development in Southeast and South Asia in 2021-22.


The presentations made during the dialogue can be found on UNESCAP's event page here.




8:30 – 8:45

Opening Remarks


  • Mia Mikic, Director, Trade Investment and Innovation Division, ESCAP

  • Chris Adams, Office Director, General Development Office, USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia

  • Jeffery Senior, Counsellor (Political/Economic) and Permanent Observer to ESCAP, Government of Canada


8:45 – 9:00

Session 1: Introduction and context setting

This session will provide a brief overview of the eTrade Alliance’s work and ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship program work. The session will present diagnostics on challenges for MSME e-commerce globally, women MSME e-commerce specifically and review of countries’ adoption of policy and business solutions.


  • Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO, Nextrade Group, and Technical Director of the eTrade Alliance

  • Barbara Kotschwar, Senior Director for Global Government Relations, Visa

  • Deanna Morris, Program Management Officer, ESCAP


Session 2. Women MSMEs access to digital finance solutions and growth capital (45 Minutes)

This session would look at the different stages of financing required for women MSMEs to start-up, run and grow their business. The session brings together regulators, service providers and investors supporting entrepreneurs along their enterprise journey from start-up to medium size enterprises. The aim of this session is to collectively discuss the current challenges and financing gaps faced by women MSMEs and identify collective actions and solutions which are accessible to women MSMEs.


Moderator: Jonathan Wong, Chief, Technology and Innovation, ESCAP


  • H.E. Neav Chanthana, Deputy Governor, National Bank of Cambodia

  • Rakkappan Ramasubramanian, Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Government Engagement, Visa

  • Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

  • Fahad Ifaz, Co-Founder and CEO, iFarmer

  • Jennifer Buckely, Senior Managing Director, SEAF



Session 3.  MSME capacity-building and marketplace onboarding, MSME access to digital services

This session takes stock of “what works” in enabling MSMEs and specifically women owned MSMEs to access ecommerce marketplaces and digital platforms, and to build their ecommerce capabilities. The session brings together the private sector, association, and government leaders to discuss lessons learned from ongoing efforts to enable MSMEs to sell online, and to envision state of the art approaches.


Moderator: Robert De Jesus, Program Officer, Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT)


  • Tina Jabeen, CEO and Managing Director, Start-up Bangladesh, ICT Ministry, Government of Bangladesh

  • Nguyen Van Thanh, Director of E-Commerce Development Centre (EcomViet)

  • Ryan Rahardjo, Head of Public Affairs Southeast Asia, Google

  • Himanshu Wardhan, Managing Director, Etsy

  • Erica Libertelli, Executive Director, Latin American eCommerce Institute

  • Arvind Sah, Co-Founder and Director, Khalti





Session 4.  Secure cross-border payments and transactions (45 Minutes)

Asia is amid a digital payment revolution, which includes cross-border micropayments enabled by QR codes. This session reviews the state of domestic and cross-border digital payments, in terms of their diffusion, security and impacts on MSMEs, and both regulations and innovative approaches that are needed for Asian economies to enable MSMEs to access global digital payment networks and transact easily and securely across borders.


Moderator: Juanita Woodward, Principal, Connecting the Dots


  • Chair: H.E. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Honorable State Minister, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Bangladesh

  • Caitlin McDonnell, Director, U.S. Government Engagement, Visa

  • Aik Boon Tan, Chief Commercial Officer, Thunes

  • John Ryan, Director General, Emerging Payments Association



Session 5. E-commerce logistics and last-mile delivery, and trade facilitation (40 Minutes)

Logistics are often the binding constraint and a major cost center for MSMEs to engage in cross-border ecommerce. At the same time, both governments and private sector operators have sought to facilitate cross-border flows of parcels and packages amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example by digitizing various trade documents. This session discusses emerging policy ideas and technology solutions to lower the time and cost of cross-border shipments and last mile delivery for small sellers in Asia and their global buyers.


Moderator: Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO, Nextrade Group, and Technical Director of the eTrade Alliance


  • Angelica Sarmiento, Director IV, Central Management, Office of Department of Finance, Philippines

  • Raymond Yee, Vice President for Customs and Regulatory Affairs, DHL Express

  • Fatimah Zahrah Alsagoff, Director of Asia Pacific Public Policy, UPS

  • Jacqueline Rajuai, Geo Program Manager, Google Plus Codes

  • Alisa DiCaprio, Head of Trade and Supply Chain, R3



Reflection and Discussion

  • Government representatives will be given an opportunity to respond

  • Open participant discussion

  • Closing Remarks: Mia Mikic, Director, Trade Investment and Innovation Division, ESCAP


Southeast and South Asia
Virtual Event
December 4th, 2020
Bring together policymakers, regulators, and leading technology companies to discuss policy and technology solutions to Asia’s MSME pain points in ecommerce, and together develop ideas for new pilots and solutions
Policymakers, regulators, leading technology and ecommerce ecosystem companies
Target Audience
Program Type
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