Launched in 2014, ITC’s E-learning Programme and its platform (the SME Trade Academy) offer practical offline and online courses, workshops and learning material to support skills development for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and trade advisors in both the public and private sectors. The programme is a major component of ITC’s trade-related technical assistance (TRTA) offering.
Covering a wide range of trade-related topics, the SME Trade Academy delivers e-learning courses of relevance to e-commerce and the digital economy, including:
- E-Commerce for SMEs: An Introduction for Policymakers (With DiploFoundation)
- Creating Quality E-commerce Content
- Using Virtual Marketplaces for your E-commerce Initiative
- Building Competitiveness in Trade in Services
- Financing Trade in Services
- Embarking on a Lean Digital Transformation for Organizations
- Cross-Border IT and ITES Outsourcing
- Standards and Certifications for IT and ITES Outsourcing
- Introduction to Supply Chain Management
- Introduction to International Transport and Logistics
The learning process includes scheduled course start and end dates, a well-defined enrolment process, minimum profile information, rules of engagement, a tutoring process, learner management strategies and clear certification requirements. The majority of courses are available free of charge.
To discover the full range of courses offered and for further information, visit the SME Trade Academy platform
To learn about ITC’s approach to e-commerce for SMEs, visit the E-Solutions Programme
The SME Trade Academy offers access to a series of pragmatic, topical, online courses and educational material on trade-related topics, supporting skill development of staff in trade support institutions, enterprises (particularly SMEs) and trade policy specialists.
Much of ITC’s work helps build capacity, either through training or advisory services. The SME Trade Academy fits within this framework by offering online courses, free of charge, to participants at introductory and advanced levels.
Quality in technical assistance is central for ITC. Key features of ITC’s offline technical assistance offering were adapted to ensure the quality expected by beneficiaries is maintained in the online learning environment. Thus, all SME Trade Academy courses are:
The SME Trade Academy provides consultancy services to assist in workshop and presentation design, targeted deployment of online learning courses as support for offline activities, and tools to facilitate the monitoring and reporting of project impact. Based on the platform, trade academies have been rolled out at national levels in support of local institutions and their sustainability.
The SME Trade Academy can support institutional TRTA in the following ways:
- Consultancy for offline and online learning: Advisory services on designing online and offline training, support for the preparation of offline workshops, as well as the integration of communities of practice (CoP) into online learning.
- Development of online learning courses: This includes course mapping, activity design, media design, development and integration with the online learner management system (LMS).
- Delivery and maintenance of the online course experience: This includes participant enrolment, learning process management, tutor management, course reporting, and course evaluation.
The SME Trade Academy engages with participants from all around the world and with a variety of backgrounds, including: entrepreneurs, SMEs, Trade Support Institutions, and government officials. Taking into account these diverse groups, SME Trade Academy courses are designed, developed and delivered following a three-step pedagogical approach:
1) knowledge and understanding;
2) analysis and application;
3) synthesis and evaluation.
The three steps are reflected in the learning activities employed by the courses, which include lectures for knowledge and understanding, case study exercises for analysis and application, as well as forum tasks, readiness assessments, assignments and course evaluations for synthesis and evaluation.
The courses can be used as learning supplements to augment the effectiveness of offline training/workshops, for example by serving as pre-workshop events in which participants are taught important concepts (ensuring that they have already reached a certain uniform level of knowledge prior to their offline training). This allows organizers to shift focus away from simply teaching content and towards problem solving, question and answer sessions, and/or action planning sessions.
International Trade Centre (ITC)
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
World Trade Organization (WTO)
Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) / Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Department for International Development (DFID) / UK Aid
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración / Associação Latino-Americana de Integração (ALADI)
European Commission / European Union (EuropeAid)
Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (oriGIn)
Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris
Regional development banks
Islamic Development Bank (IDB)
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Meet the beneficiaries
Courses are currently available
Course participants since the launch as of end 2017, half of which in 2017 only
3 step approach
1. knowledge and understanding | 2. analysis and application | 3. synthesis and evaluation
of participants reporting that they have concretely applied the knowledge and skills which they gained through the courses in their professional activities.
E-Commerce for SMEs: An Introduction for Policymakers (Developed with DiploFoundation)
In the context of e-commerce’s increasing relevance in international trade, this joint course by ITC and Diplo Foundation is designed to help participants better understand the multifaceted concept of e-commerce, the opportunities it offers to SMEs, and the steps necessary to create an enabling environment allowing for a greater uptake of e-commerce by both businesses and consumers. This course aims to assist participants in identifying the key components of competitiveness from a business perspective across the e-commerce process chain, from establishing a business online, to international e-payment, cross-border delivery and aftersales.
After completing this course, participants will be able to:
- Argue for the importance of e-commerce for businesses;
- Determine the key ingredients necessary to ensure the competitiveness of SMEs in e-commerce; and
- Identify policy areas likely to lead to a conducive environment for e-commerce, both nationally and internationally.
This course introduces participants to the different aspects of competitiveness in trade in services, with the aim of identifying specific actions to enhance it. The course lectures cover the importance of trade in services for a country’s economy from a developmental perspective, the framework for assessing competitiveness in trade in services, and finally the role which Trade and Investment Support Institutions (TISIs) can play in supporting small and medium service enterprises through policy advocacy, sector development and capacity building. Particular focus is placed on value chains, as well as on the role of digital technology for trade in services.
After completing this course, participants will be able to:
- Grasp how trade in services takes place and argue for its importance;
- Identify the elements crucial to the competitiveness of trade in services; and
- Identify actions that can be taken by TISIs to enhance the competitiveness of service exports.
Focusing on situations of developing and least-developed countries, this course introduces the particularities of service exporters, their financial needs at various stages of growth, as well as the various obstacles which they face in accessing adequate financing. Going beyond “traditional” financing methods, it explores a variety of innovative service financing options and digital payment solutions, such as crowdfunding, business incubators and the expanding uses of mobile money technology.
After completing this course, participants will be able to:
- Analyse the financial needs of service exporters and the barriers which they face in accessing financing;
- Assess the relative merits of a variety of traditional and innovative financing options for service exporters; and
- Assess the effects of digital payment solutions, such as mobile money, on service providers.
Senior Advisor, CARE International, Myanmar
ITC’s E-Learning courses are very helpful for people in developing countries. They help us gain awareness of developed countries’ requirements for imports, as well as the kind of quality and quantity they need.
The reason why I need to learn is that I need to contribute to my country by helping to develop the SME sector. Like many developing countries, Myanmar is still struggling to move forward, and the SME sector could be the essential part of our country’s economic engine. As a development practitioner, I have to internalize trade-related skills and knowledge in order to teach and share them with local stakeholders, mainly market players who play major roles in their different sectors
Chief Trade Promotion Officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council
The SME Trade Academy is an e-learning programme that I would recommend to any thoughtful trade professional, exporting SME and the organized private sector (OPS) in developing and least developed countries. The courses which I took are a compendium of those topics that any staff member working in Trade Support Institutions (TSIs)/Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) as well as Foreign Trade Representatives (FTR) should master. I simply cannot thank the team enough for this wonderful initiative, and I am convinced that it will go a long way towards impacting the trade skills in developing and least developed countries. All of the course notes and case studies are very useful reference materials for research work.
Senior Marketing Officer in Horticultural Crops Directorate, Kenya
The course outlines and their contents were easy to understand. The lectures, the videos and the exercises made it easy to grasp the lessons since they were very practical. I loved the fact that it was possible to download the lecture contents in a simple and safe manner, as it means that I will be able to easily refer to them in the future. I would highly recommend the SME Trade Academy to anyone working with SMEs, as well as to SMEs themselves!
Senior Consultant in trade and economics, Ethiopia
I feel that the courses offered by the SME Trade Academy are of great importance in two ways. First, they are an excellent resource, not just for SMEs planning or starting their export or international business activities, but also for other actors in the value chain, such as suppliers, trade promotion institutions, trade representatives, the diaspora, TSIs, trade finance institutions, etc. Second, they are very useful for professionals trying to begin their career, or already working in international trade, SME business development, trade and market-related consultancy, as well as research and advisory support services.
Managing Director of a marketing consultancy, Zimbabwe
With the knowledge that I obtained from the “Helping SMEs Generate Export Business” course, I successfully introduced
several school outreach programmes in Zimbabwe, which contributed to a 5% increase in sales contribution for the 3 months ending in September 2014. Furthermore, the “Engaging with the Diaspora for Trade” course motivated me to pursue a market assessment of the Zimbabwean diaspora through the Venecom Marketing trade and export portfolio. Once it is completed, this assessment will identify market opportunities for Zimbabwean SMEs to diversify internationally, with the aim of increasing export opportunities for these companies.
Programme in a nutshell
Year of creation
Type of business
Capacity buildingPolicy DialogueResearchTechnical assistance
Number of activities carried out