The webinar was officially opened by Ambassador Michael Michalak, SVP and Regional Managing Director of the Council.
“It has been about one year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our global economy and it is an important time for businesses – particularly SMEs-- to do a stock taking on the digital transformation needs of the new normal in which we are now operating. SMEs are working harder than ever before to adapt to the new normal,” said Amb. Michalak in his welcoming remarks. “The pandemic has certainly accelerated the digital transition and the Myanmar Government has instituted many helpful measures to assist SMEs adapt and digitally transform.”
“With the saying for the new normal ‘Necessity is the mother of technological adoption’, CERP explicitly promotes the adoption of mobile financial resources to make cash transfer payments to the most vulnerable and affected households. We are making good progress in piloting and sandboxing new technologies in the implementation of CERP. CERP also enshrines the spirit of innovation in our fight against the pandemic with the promotion of innovative products and platforms,” said Deputy Minister Dr. Min Ye Paing Hein in his opening remarks.
“Deadly and highly contagious Covid-19 pandemic has hit Myanmar since March 2020, and then second wave of it is still hanging on. Counter-acting measures such as physical/social distancing, semi and full lockdown are taken; hence resulting in disruption in supply-chains, trade logistics, in production, distribution, in short --- disruption in smooth trade flow and economic slow-down ---hardest hit on the MSMEs,” said President U Zaw Min Win of the UMFCCI in his opening remarks. “Due to these reasons, as an alternative way of “New Normal” using social media and doing business via internet ---e-marketing/e-commerce, mobile-payment; internet penetration growing up since early 2020. This helps MSMEs digitalization move faster. Under the aegis the UMFCCI with the support of the Digital Trade E-Commerce Development (DTECD) of Ministry of Commerce Digital Economy Association (DEA) was formed besides e-Commerce Association of Myanmar (ECAM),” he added. “At present, DTECD, DEA and ECAM are working together for further development of digitalized e-commerce in Myanmar.”
During the webinar, various prominent speakers from Myanmar government agencies such as the MSME Agency of MOPFI, Ministry of Commerce, Central Bank of Myanmar, Ministry of Transport and Communication and US-ABC member company, Mastercard made presentations. The webinar consisted of two sections: the Myanmar Government’s Digitalization Plan to Support Myanmar SMEs during COVID-19 and the Importance of Digital Payments and Cashless Transaction for SMEs. As Myanmar SMEs make up 99 percent of the country’s economy, they can benefit from an understanding of the current Government’s plan to help SMEs adapt and cope with COVID-19. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to accelerate the pace of digitalization. Therefore, it is vital for SMEs to know how to choose the right digital tools and utilize them effectively.
Aileen Chew, Country Manager of Mastercard Thailand and Myanmar not only presented on the challenges for business due to COVID-19 but also how digital transformation and digital payments can help SMEs to reach more customers.
“More than ever, the impact of COVID-19 has shown the importance of the digital economy. And as social distancing becomes our ‘new normal’, we must ensure that all players, especially SMEs in Myanmar, can receive and make digital transactions so as to better sustain themselves during these turbulent times. SMEs make up 98% of enterprises in Myanmar and account for between 52%- 97% of total employment in the private sector. Extending financial and digital access to this traditionally informal sector is an imperative part of Mastercard’s ongoing financial inclusion global efforts to bring a total of 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025,” said Aileen Chew, Country Manager for Thailand and Myanmar, Mastercard.
SME capacity building has been a key pillar of the Council for nearly one decade. In 2011, the US-ASEAN Business Council established a training program for ASEAN SMEs in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN SMEs leverage technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Today, nearly 10,000 SMEs have benefitted from Council’s SME programs in all ten ASEAN Member States. This workshop webinar is the fifth workshop the Council has conducted in Myanmar, with the first one held in 2014.
In line with going digital, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy, a self-help and self-paced online learning platform for SMEs, in 2016. The academy offers free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). You can read more about the academy and access it here www.asean-sme-academy.org.