‘True engine of growth’: Concepcion lauds ASEAN leaders for prioritizing MSMEs

With entrepreneurship as the “true engine” of growth, an economic adviser on Saturday, Nov. 12, hailed the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for putting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and their digitalization at the core of the region’s economic recovery and progress.

(Photo courtesy of Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion)

Joey Concepcion, Go Negosyo founder and ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) Chair for the Philippines, said he was elated that the ASEAN leaders recognized entrepreneurship as the key driver of the ASEAN economy, and that helping entrepreneurs would be vital in achieving inclusive growth in the region during the two-day top-level meetings at the ASEAN 2022 Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“I am elated that the leaders were unanimous in saying that MSMEs are the true engine of growth in ASEAN,” he added in a statement.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. attended the high-level meetings in Phnom Penh during the week.

Concepcion, a former economic adviser during the Duterte administration and a member of the private sector advisory council in the current administration, also emphasized that MSMEs comprise 99 percent of all establishments, contribute 85 percent of jobs, and 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

He also expressed optimism that the leaders recognized the role that governments should play in helping MSMEs.

“We’re all moving in the same direction,” he said as he noted how the ASEAN leaders affirmed that digitalization among MSMEs can enhance competitiveness and productivity across the region.

Marcos also expressed confidence in the region’s small and medium businesses.

“To upgrade, upskill, and upsize our MSMEs, digital transformation is vital,” the Chief Executive said in his address at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (BIS).

“This is in addition to our efforts to enable our systems to catch up with the rapid development of the digital economy,” he added.

But Neak Oknha Kith Meng, chair of the ASEAN BAC, noted the vulnerability of MSMEs amid economic uncertainties.

In his recommendation, he listed economic integration as a “priority” to achieve faster economic resilience at national and regional levels.

“Otherwise, we are helpless amid all the uncertainty especially our workforce and our MSMEs,” he said in his opening statement during the summit.

Digitalization and cooperation are also central to the regional mentorship program called the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) program, a legacy project of the Philippines’s 2017 chairmanship of the ASEAN, Concepcion said.

AMEN aims to share best practices and know-how among MSMEs in the region.

“With AMEN, MSMEs can learn from other small entrepreneurs and mentors across the region. Mentors can also exchange knowledge and learn from each other on a regional scope,” the Go Negosyo founder said.

“Our goal is to scale up our MSMEs through access to what we call the three M’s of MSME development – that is, mentorship, money and market – using both traditional and digital platforms,” he furthered.

He shared that the first phase of AMEN was piloted in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines in 2019, which saw some 127 entrepreneurs and 48 mentors participating in the event.

Phase 2, which, along with Phase 1, was funded by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund, is now in its build-up stage and is set to be implemented across the ASEAN.

“AMEN plans to train, in each ASEAN country, between 1,000 to 2,000 MSMEs each year. This we hope will one day grow to a network of thousands of confident entrepreneurs, able to grow and generate more jobs in the ASEAN, creating an inclusive economy and bringing prosperity for all,” Concepcion said.