How Can Women Digital Entrepreneurs Boost Inclusion?

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Session 228

Tuesday, 25 April 2023 13:00–14:00 (UTC+02:00) ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming Thematic Workshop

Voices from the field

Background information: 

The digital transformation has been a driver for innovation and productivity growth, creating new opportunities for developing economies. The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed an acceleration of the transition towards online economic activity, which made it easier for businesses to trade and integrate into regional and global value chains. However, in spite of the economic growth generated by the increased use of digital tools, important inequalities remain. Some categories such as women, are greatly underrepresented and benefit from less opportunities than their male counterparts.  The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that about 7 percent of female entrepreneurs in emerging markets receive equity investment capital. Reducing the gender gap in the digital space will not only benefit women, but societies and economies as a whole. According to an International Finance Corporation report issued in 2021, women could add over $14.5 billion to e-commerce markets in Africa alone and $280 billion in South-East Asia, between 2025 and 2030. Therefore, the provision of relevant support to ensure that no one is left behind is essential to ensure that digital entrepreneurship can be used for generating prosperity and sustainable development. 

The workshop will showcase the remarkable efforts made by selected women digital entrepreneurs in developing countries to empower their communities and drive economic growth. Through the participation of the business owners members of eTrade for Women Communities, a network of female-led businesses supported by UNCTAD, this session will highlight how these entrepreneurs use their digital companies to support and empower marginalized groups. Ecosystem enablers who are actively promoting a more inclusive digital economy, will also share their experiences.

By sharing best practices and lessons learned, the workshop will facilitate cross-fertilization and peer learning, with the goal of encouraging digital stakeholders to tackle the challenges of the gender digital divide in line with SDG 5. The conversation will also lay the ground for potential partnerships among different actors of the digital ecosystem, to foster more inclusive development. 

The initiative eTrade for Women was launched in 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in collaboration with the eTrade for all partners, with the objective to leverage women entrepreneurship to foster more inclusive digital economies.

Erica Libertelli
Erica Libertelli Director eCommerce Institute, Argentina

Erica Libertelli is a director at eCommerce Institute where she leads global projects and initiatives for the development and acceleration of the digital economy including the design of scalable and tailored training programs and MSME access to digital services. In addition, she works with Chambers and Associations of Electronic Commerce around the world to organize, promote, develop, and implement initiatives such as eCommerce DAY, international trade projects, and inclusive digital commerce programs especially related to the creation of eCommerce capacities for companies led by women, and women's leadership in the digital commerce sector through the eCommerce Institute's eWomen Program. 

Lastly, she is a manager in international government and donor-funded projects for eCommerce development, leading the eCommerce Institute’s training and capacity-building initiatives on eCommerce with USAID’s eTrade Alliance, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Brazil Global Trade Hub), and USAID Central Asia's Future Growth Initiative, among others.

Omone Tessy Okolo
Omone Tessy Okolo Chief of Staff AfriLabs, Nigeria

Omone Tessy Okolo is an international speaker, a skilled and dedicated professional. She is currently serving as the Chief of Staff at AfriLabs, a network organisation of over 400 technology and innovation hubs across 52 African countries. Her journey in the organization began as an executive assistant, and through her hard work, commitment, and diligence, she rose to her current position. 

As Chief of Staff, Tessy is responsible for coordinating and implementing the activities of the Office of the Executive Director, managing diplomatic relationships, and leading strategic missions. She is also committed to ensuring that AfriLabs achieves its desired mission and vision in the ecosystem, which is to support innovation hubs and their communities in raising high-potential entrepreneurs that will stimulate economic growth and social development in Africa. 

Tessy is a strategic planner with excellent managerial, analytical, and conflict-resolution skills. She brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her role, and her dedication to her work has earned her respect and admiration from her colleagues and peers. 

Tessy obtained a degree in law at Houdegbe North American University in the Republic of Benin and was subsequently called to the Nigerian Bar Association in 2015. Her legal background has equipped her with the necessary skills to navigate the complex landscape of the African tech ecosystem and provide sound advice and guidance. 

Tessy Okolo is a remarkable leader, and her contributions to the growth and development of AfriLabs are invaluable. She continues to inspire and motivate others with her commitment to excellence and her dedication to making a positive impact on the African continent. 

Betty Bâ
Betty Bâ National Consultant in Communication and Digital Inclusion, Founder of Ouâ Company, Community Leader eTrade for Women Ouâ Company, Senegal

Educated in Geneva, Betty Bâ holds a master's degree in political science, a bachelor's degree in computer graphics communication from the University of Geneva and a diploma in business informatics with a specialisation in Java J2EE programming from the IFAGE Institute. After developing applications in the field of insurance brokerage, she returned to Senegal to develop the marketplace platform, which allows traders in the informal sector to sell their products online. In parallel, she developed communication strategies for national and international structures. She is now Founder / Director of Ouâ Company SAS and National Consultant in digital inclusion and communication.

Mazlita Mat Hassan
Mazlita Mat Hassan Chief Hustler at Recqa, eTrade for Women Community Leader RECQA, Malaysia

Mazlita is an experienced Startup CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Product Development (Mobile & Web), Analytical Skills, Data Visualization, Mentoring, Employee Training, and Data Analytics. Strong business development professional with a MPhil focused in Computer Science from Birkbeck, University of London and BSc in Computer Science from University College London.

She is passionate about knowledge sharing, giving access to education to all especially the marginalised and underserved communities, crazy on the startups and innovation world, and an advocate for getting more women and young girls in IT. She is also a freelance IT Corporate Trainer and have been so for the last 11 years, training participants in various organisations in Malaysia and Thailand. Her area of specialisation is Data Analytics, Data Visualisations & Data Storytelling using tools such as Microsoft Office, Google Workspace and Tableau.

Her mission in life has always been about building something that is impactful, scalable and sustainable especially in the field of education, serving the marginalised and underserved communities. Her platform RECQA is being used as the base platform for DELIMa 2.0, the National Digital Learning Platform for Malaysia serving 7M students and teachers. RECQA is also the base platform for World School Project, a learning platform sponsored by UNICEF Malaysia.

She is a firm believer that education has been and is a way out of poverty. If you are as passionate as me in transforming and enriching communities via education.

Sabrina Ielmoli Beuxe Chief, eTrade Initiatives Section United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Moderator

Sabrina is a senior professional with extensive experience at the strategical and operational level in public and private organizations. She is an experienced programme manager with skills and expertise in strategy design and operationalization, fundraising, capacity-development and partnership-building. She currently coordinate and supervises the eTrade for all initiative, eCommerce Week and eTrade for Women work to promote dialogue for an inclusive digital economy. 

Sabrina holds a Masters Degree in International Economics and Social Affairs from the University of Geneva

Digital Economy Digital Inclusion
WSIS Action Lines
  • AL C1 logo C1. The role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • AL C4 logo C4. Capacity building
  • AL C6 logo C6. Enabling environment
  • AL C7 E–BUS logo C7. ICT applications: benefits in all aspects of life — E-business
Sustainable Development Goals
  • Goal 5 logo Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls