Concepcion pushes for stronger ASEAN bloc to support MSMEs hard-hit by COVID-19

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Advisory Council (BAC) Philippine chair Joey Concepcion called for stronger regional support for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a recent virtual meeting with ASEAN Economic Ministers, Concepcion shared the progress of the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) legacy project.

“The backbone of our economy is our micro, small, and medium enterprises. We cannot let them down especially this time when even our own businesses are affected. Yet, it is imperative that we continue to help those who are in need, help those who aspire to be successful in life,” he said.

Founded in 2017, the Philippine AMEN legacy project aims to serve the MSMEs which represent 90-95 percent of the country’s business community.

The first phase sought to establish a public-private partnership and provide entrepreneurs with mentorship, money, and market (3M) opportunities.

Phase I received $300,000 in funding from the Japan-ASEAN Integrated Fund (JAIF) which led to the development of ten modules covering key areas for entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

During this stage, 48 mentors were certified to offer valuable knowledge to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. Using the ten modules, an Adaptive Business Model was formed to help MSMEs respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

In its pilot run, 45 businesses from the Philippines have successfully graduated from the first online batch and applied the lessons from the coaching session to grow their respective businesses.

“This is a platform that I believe has great potential not only in our respective countries but the 10 countries together sharing mentors and helping each mentee in their respective countries with the power of digitalization. Whether through Zoom or teams or other platforms, it can be done. We have seen so many entrepreneurs in this pandemic revive their spirit of hope which is very important at a time like this,” he said, adding that the savings of bringing the mentorship program online were significant.

The AMEN Legacy Project is moving to its second phase. JAIF has pledged to provide $500,000 in additional funding to expand AMEN to the remaining seven ASEAN countries.

“We then envisioned if we can replicate this in every ASEAN country and strengthen the network of mentors among the 10 countries, we can now elevate every entrepreneur in the ten ASEAN countries to scale up much further,” Concepcion said.

“We will continue to push forward and we are glad and happy that Japan has supported our efforts and will continue to support our efforts.” Concepcion also called for ASEAN member countries to allow travel within countries once parameters and safety measures are in place as part of an effort to support MSMEs in the tourism and retail sectors.

“Many of our micro-entrepreneurs are hit badly. The chances of survival depend not only on how we mentor them to be able to provide the next coming months developing positive cash flow but to be able to continue providing them with hope is very important when you're faced with a situation that was never planned for,” he said.