top of page

eTrade Alliance Webinar Series:

Workforce Training and Digital Skills Development

Written by Michael Poor 

The fifth installment in the eTrade Alliance’s webinar series focused on examining the value of digital skills training and workforce development, specifically in ecommerce and cross-border trade, in supporting economic growth in developing economies. 

The panel was composed of: 

Moderator:  Michael Poor, Manager, and Financial Services Lead, Nextrade Group

Speakers:     Hilda Kragha, Chief Executive Officer, The African Talent Company (TATC)


 Fabian Stächelin, Founder and CEO of e-traid GMBH and Senior Ecommerce Advisor at Nextrade Group 


 Erica Libertellli, Director, eCommerce Institute


 Maria Garcia, Institutional Director, Commerce Mind


Michael opened the webinar with an introduction to the eTrade Alliance, the speakers on the panel, and the topic of the webinar. He underscored the important role of human capital in economic growth, and the necessity to support a workforce that has the competencies and abilities required of it in an increasingly digital world. As this is particularly important in developing economies, Michael highlighted skills development and training as one of the Alliance’s primary work streams engaged in the pursuit of its development objective: supporting and facilitating inclusive MSME ecommerce activity and cross-border trade. As noted in prior webinars, Michael also highlighted the impact of Covid19 in accelerating digitization, and in increasing the importance of digital skills training. 

Key themes of the webinar: 

  • Human capital is a key driver of economic growth, and in today’s digital world, it is important that the workforce has the relevant and applicable skills demanded of it to drive such growth.

  • The Covid pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the globe, and at the same time widened the gap between the skills needed by the labor force and those it currently has.

  • Digital commerce has exploded over the past several years (also accelerated by Covid), and it presents a tremendous economic opportunity for MSMEs; their ability to capitalize on the opportunity requires the appropriate capabilities and competencies.

  • Reducing the digital skills gap is one of the Alliance’s key work streams, through which many of its development projects are focused. More specifically, the Alliance builds and supports training programs that teach MSMEs to sell their products online and to expand their market access through cross-border trade. 

The panelists in the webinar represent the eTrade Alliance partners and are all engaged in digital skills development and training programs. In each of their respective presentations, they shared their perspectives on the topic, and how they are addressing the digital skills gap by equipping MSMEs and workers with the appropriate skills and capabilities through their project work with the Alliance.


Hilda Kragha was the first panelist to present and she opened with an Introduction to her company - The African Talent Company (TATC). TATC started as a job-finding platform similar to, and now operates across eastern and western Africa, with a focus on job sourcing for young people (18-35) and early-stage entrepreneurs. Hilda noted that after quickly recognizing the digital skills gap in the workforce across Africa, TATC adapted its business model beyond a basic job marketplace to include training that would help their job applicants obtain the roles in demand.  



  • Ecommerce, gig work, and digital entrepreneurship are transforming the skills required to conduct business today.

  • Students graduating from universities, and youth on the whole, are not equipped with the digital and soft skills needed to obtain jobs and succeed in today’s digital world.

  • TATC has partnered with the Alliance to provide this much-needed digital skills training (“up-skilling”) at scale.

  • TATC places heavy importance on skills gap analysis to determine the focus of their curriculum, such that their training is directly relevant to the skills needed for the jobs in demand.

  • Some skill sets required are as basic as how to use a smartphone, computer functions, using Microsoft applications, and drafting an email. 

  • TATC adapted the delivery of their training from a fully integrated, high-tech Coursera-styled training platform to the use of more basic, low-cost channels such as Whatsapp and Telegram; this change led to an immediate impact on their learning conversion rates by reducing the barriers to participation created by the use of platforms that require existing digital proficiency.


Watch Hilda share about the TATC and how they have shaped their business model to produce skills development programs that best meet the needs of the young, entrepreneurial workforce in Africa here: 

After Hilda spoke, Fabian presented the work he is doing with MSMEs in ecommerce, applied from his extensive experience working at one of the original ecommerce platforms, eBay. He focused on 3 important themes: 1.) Why ecommerce skills are important; 2.) What he has been doing with Nextrade and the eTrade Alliance to train on ecommerce skills, and 3.) Insights he has gleaned over the years from working with MSMEs on how to make training impactful. 



1.) Why ecommerce skills are important:

  • Opportunity cost: ecommerce is too big of a market to be ignored

    • Ecommerce began in the 1990s and is now flourishing

    • There are more than 2B digital buyers across the globe (B2C alone)

    • Digital sales volume in 2020 = $5.5T (~25% of the American economy)

    • ~20% of all retail sales occur online


2.) Work his company and Nextrade are doing to facilitate MSME engagement in ecommerce:

  • Programs in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Brazil, and also Central Asia

  • Identify companies with the need and motivation to up-skill, and with suitability for ecommerce (i.e., product sellers)

  • Training delivered through webinars then added practical assignments, and then country-specific learning hubs


3.) How to design and execute training that is impactful (i.e., MSMEs successfully selling online and generating revenue growth): 

  • Training is structured to have close, regular engagement with participants up to the point they have established an online store and are conducting regular sales

  • The training curriculum is flexible, commensurate with the skills of the cohorts, and progression is stair-stepped

  • The parameters of training programs are clearly defined: 

  • Clear objectives – e.g., build store together, make the first sale together

  • Clear expectations – how long the training will take 

  • Time and engagement – level of time and effort required to complete training and begin selling through ecommerce

  • Acknowledgment and showcasing – successful trainees are recognized by being featured on their platforms


Watch Fabian present his points (presentation slides included) here: 

Erica Libertelli followed Fabian on the panel and introduced the eCommerce Institute. She shared about the work they are doing in supporting the growth of the digital economy in Latin America, and in enabling SMEs to conduct business online and engage in cross-border trade. She also highlighted the projects they are doing through the eTrade Alliance. 



  • Emphasis on the importance of connecting with local organizations and associations, such as chambers of commerce and local business advocacy entities, as well as with government and public sector donors, to maximize resources and craft and execute programs that align with the needs of local MSMEs.

  • They execute several initiatives, which combined aim to consolidate and develop the ecommerce ecosystem. Their most featured initiative is:

    • eCommerce Day – a national networking and training event aimed at developing professional capabilities in the ecommerce ecosystem; eCommerce Day is held in 18 countries, and hosts more than 40,000 attendees and 900 speakers per year.

  • They conduct regional training and certification – e.g., executive programs, masters specialization, training of the trainers (building training capabilities with other institutions), and short intensive courses.

  • It is important training is configured per MSME’s ecommerce readiness (beginner to advanced levels), as well as per sector – such as beauty, retail, tourism, and mass consumption.

  • It is also important to understand the needs and expectations of the regional ecommerce ecosystem, such as to provide tailored and effective training programs.

  • eTrade Alliance project Mayors for eTrade – the eCommerce Institute has launched a program with the Alliance in Ecuador designed to enable 100 export-ready MSMEs to onboard on ecommerce platforms Amazon and eBay, and to export their products using favorable logistics and payments solutions provided by other Alliance partners.


Watch Erica present on eCommerce Institute (slides included) here:

Erica transitioned the webinar floor to Maria, who presented on Commerce Mind Talent Accelerator – part of the eCommerce Institute programming.


  • COVID accelerated the ongoing change from traditional retail to ecommerce, and companies in Latin America have found themselves and their employees to be ill-equipped with the appropriate digital skill sets and capabilities.

  • Commerce Mind provides scholarships to employees at partner companies to complete digital skills training and develop their capabilities per the needs of the modern digital workforce.

  • Commerce Mind works with local business advocacy entities such as chambers of commerce to generate awareness and partnerships with private enterprises and utilizes academic institutions to deliver the curriculum.

  • Their scholarships are focused on 3 primary areas: marketing, coding, and ecommerce.

  • Beyond providing training to employees of companies on basic digital skills, they also partner with global NGOs to provide scholarships for a talent accelerator program focused specifically on developing regional talent in coding.


Watch Maria present on Commerce Mind (slides included) here:

Following the speakers' opening presentations, the panel carried forward an open discussion diving further into their work, the importance of digital skills training, and how to create programs with impact. Michael posed questions to each of the panelists and solicited input and recommendations from them based on their work and experiences, resulting in some common key themes.


  • Technology provides significant opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment, specifically in digital commerce. This underscores the importance of digital skills training and capacity building in facilitating economic growth. 

  • Time and process of learning vary across training recipients, and are an important determinant in program delivery methods and success rates; e.g., it is important to determine whether in-person, online, or a hybrid program is most effective, and this varies by region and demographics.

  • Programs that are less academic in nature and have more commercial applications are the most effective in getting entrepreneurs up and running with their businesses online; while knowledge is valuable, generating revenue is the most important outcome for training recipients and should be used as a key measure for evaluating program efficacy. 

  • Other measures for evaluating success (program KPIs) include: how many customers are the training recipients growing after the program, how many new countries are they selling to; as well as more economic development-oriented metrics such as: how much their annual income increased, their quality of life improved, what is the impact on jobs and output on a regional level. 

  • To maximize impact, training should be coupled with enablement services such as mentoring, access to professional networks, and membership in business associations, as well as requisite financial resources such as financing and insurance. 

  • Training that is most sustainable and impactful in the long run will come from embedding digital skills in schooling at a young age. This includes very specific training such as coding and software development.

  • Big ecommerce platforms will need to open up and expand their geographic footprint; the development of local ecommerce ecosystems and platforms helps to overcome dependency on the larger platforms that do not have a geographical footprint in all regions and thus offer limited opportunity.  

  • One of the biggest, most common challenges to the growth of ecommerce and the adoption of digital technologies is trust; trust can be overcome through capacity building and training. 


To view the speaker presentations and subsequent discussions in their entirety you can view the full webinar recording here:

bottom of page