US' 5-year aid program for Pinoy MSMEs hits $1-B mark

The United States has extended a total of $18 million (P1-billion) worth of partnership assistance to the Philippines for the span of five years to help the country's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) transition to mature in the e-commerce industry.

Through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US recently launched the Strengthening Private Enterprises for the Digital Economy (SPEED) project to expand the participation of Philippine SMEs in the country's emerging e-commerce ecosystem.

It will be done by improving SMEs' capacity to adopt digital technologies; supporting the integration of SMEs and e-commerce platforms in logistical supply chains; increasing the use of e-payment systems and other fintech innovations; and strengthening consumer awareness and protection.

Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Manila

SPEED supports the US government's goal to help the Philippines develop a robust, secure, and resilient digital economy as a key to drive post-pandemic recovery and long-term economic growth for the country.

At the launching of the program, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said SPEED proves her government's "strong commitment to supporting the Philippine government's vision of a digital Philippines."

"As we all know, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the way we do things, accelerating the shift toward e-commerce, digital platforms, and the digital economy of the post-pandemic world," she said.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Sec. Fred Pascual said that the key in the agency's support to scale up MSMEs "is to help them overcome constraints to their access to technology."

"We aim to enable MSMEs to embrace digital transformation. This way, I believe DTI and USAID’s directions to enhance SME capacities align," he added.

Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) expressed optimism that the programs under SPEED "will further support the BSP's Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap objective to convert at least 50 percent of retail payment transactions to digital form by the end of 2023."

"Collaborations and partnerships such as this will contribute toward a more resilient and stronger Philippine economy that promotes a high quality of life for all Filipinos," he added.