Building a stronger Asean for MSMEs hit by COVID-19
GO NEGOSYO PILIPINAS ANGAT LAHAT! - Joey Concepcion (The Philippine Star) - September 3, 2020 - 12:00am

The backbone of our economy are micro small and medium enterprises. During this difficult time, we cannot let them down even if our own businesses are affected. It is imperative that we continue to support those who are in need, help those that aspire to be successful in life.

This was the message I presented during a meeting with the ASEAN Economic Ministers last Aug. 24. Many of our micro-entrepreneurs, especially those in the retail and tourism sectors, which account for 90 to 95 percent of the business community are hit badly. For the last 15 years, I have seen countless of entrepreneurs who were able to achieve success, but are now faced with the prospect of closing their business.

The chances of survival of our MSMEs depend not only on how we guide them through the next months, but how we give them hope when the situation is bleak.

The ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) legacy project continues to show great potential in helping MSMEs get through

this difficult period. Founded in 2017, the first phase of the Philippine AMEN legacy project sought to establish a public-private partnership and provide entrepreneurs with mentorship, money, and market (3M) opportunities.

During the first phase, 10 modules covering key areas for entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines were developed. At the same time, 48 mentors were certified to offer valuable knowledge to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.

Using the 10 modules, we formed an Adaptive Business Model to help MSEs tackle the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. We were pleasantly surprised by the results.

In its pilot run, 45 local businesses have successfully graduated from the first online batch and applied the lessons from the coaching session to grow their respective businesses. We were also able to save more since expenses on transport for mentors, facilities, hotels, food and travel have been minimized or eliminated altogether.

We expect the public private partnership, which focuses on 3M, will be further enhanced through digital platforms. While the pandemic has caused disruptions in offline businesses, it has created so many opportunities for online businesses. From Viber and Facebook communities, you can now see micro entrepreneurs selling homemade delicacies and favorite food dishes to different households using digital platforms. From Shopee to Lazada, and outsourcing delivery to Lalamove, Foodpanda, Grab, and the list goes on.

I believe that this is a platform with great potential not only in our respective countries, but also with all ASEAN member countries working together, sharing mentors, and helping each mentee in their respective countries through the power of digitalization. We envisioned if we can replicate this in every ASEAN country and strengthen the network of mentors among the ten countries, we can now elevate every entrepreneur in the 10 ASEAN countries to scale up much further.

To improve the macro-environment for MSMEs, Go Negosyo is leading testing innovations in the Philippines from antibody rapid test kits to RT-PCR and pooled swab testing. Right now, we are exploring antigen and saliva testing. Testing innovations and a localized granular lockdown strategy helps us balance health and economy, allowing us to save jobs, lives, and livelihoods.

Once we have visibility offered by different testing strategies, we can control the infection rate through strategic lockdowns, and ensure that cases do not go up, helping MSMEs recover their losses and rebuild their businesses.

***

The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) launched the ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) in 2007 to recognize outstanding ASEAN companies contributing to ASEAN’s growth and prosperity. ABA also serves as a platform to further spread information about the regional integration of the ASEAN Economic Community.

Since its launch, ABA has recognized more than 100 companies across the region who have all shown exemplary performance to become potential global players.

For the past few years, I have witnessed that more and more Philippine companies are taking the ASEAN center stage as they showcase Filipino creativity and innovation through their company-owned branches or franchisees. Their growth has become unprecedented and have inspired others to take on the challenge of going global.

This year, ABA 2020 forges a strategic partnership with Deloitte Vietnam to honor enterprises that have contributed to the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the region.

I encourage all Filipino enterprises to apply and be part of the ASEAN Business Awards 2020! This is a great chance for all of you to show ASEAN and the world what Filipino businesses can offer. Those who are interested to join may contact ABA Philippines Secretariat at aba2020.ph@gmail.com or via phone: (+632) 8637 9229 / +639994735363.

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