(Jakarta, Indonesia) – On November 22, the US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council), in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, conducted a webinar for ASEAN small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The event was part of the Council’s broader workshop series in response to the COVID-19 crisis and was hosted in conjunction with the 2021 ASEAN Creative Economy Business Forum from November 16-23. More than 200 SMEs across Southeast Asia participated in the webinar themed around “Enhancing ASEAN SMEs Competitiveness amid Digital Creative Economy Era.”
The webinar was officially opened by Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the Council. He emphasized how important Small and Medium Enterprises in ASEAN are as a backbone to the economy, especially with emergence of the digital creative economy sector.
“We are well aware of how the digital creative economy has the potential to not only strengthen the expansion of global value chains, but also to increase digital adoption among creative SMEs. Overall, through these pathways embracing the digital creative economy also contribute to the overarching goal of global sustainable development,” he said. “Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, have all consistently promoted trade in creative goods and services. But, while the digital creative economy has offered a large potential for even more socioeconomic growth, COVID has hindered the industry’s progress and resulted in a loss of income and livelihoods, which has been a setback. And this is where we see increased digitalization as an important factor to reset growth potential and build economic resilience,” he added.
Initiating the webinar, H.E. Sidharto R. Suryodipuro, Director-General of ASEAN Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, in his keynote address, shared insights on policy update on the development for Indonesian SMEs and the importance to boost the performance of the ASEAN’s SMEs and digital creative economy to enhance their global competitiveness as well as contribution to the regional economic recovery.
“ASEAN perceives the creative economy as an important driver in supporting the regional economic recovery. The direction that Indonesia and ASEAN are taking is to digitize MSMEs, because this will expand their market reach and integrate them to the global value chain.”
From Indonesia's policy side, he added that it supports advancement of the creative economy as the main vehicle to creating an equitable, sustainable, and inclusive economy. “First, the creative economy law in 2019; second, the Digital Roadmap 2021-2024; third, the Omnibus Law on Job Creation; and fourth, the Government Regulation no. 7/2021.” He also mentioned that in 2019, the creative economy contributed up to USD 22 billion to Indonesia and played a role in providing equal opportunities as well as employment, for more young people and women.
The webinar was also supported by US-ABC member companies Meta and Visa, who each delivered a training session for SMEs during the portion of the event on “U.S. Private Sector Support for SMEs for the Digital Creative Economy Agenda.” Ms. Ng Say Ling, Head of Small Business for Asia-Pacific at Visa, gave a training on the benefits of using digital payments for SMEs and emphasized their importance in the digital creative economy era. Visa also shared an SME success story via a fireside chat with Mr. Lance Cheang, Managing Director of VLAN Asia.
Mr. Ruici Tio, Policy Programs Manager for Meta, continued the session with an overview of the importance of digital tools for SMEs in the digital creative economy era. Meta also shared an overview of their Boost training models, led by Ms. Niky Sakhrani, Meta Community Trainer.
“Meta is proud to support US-ABC’s SME program and provide access to our free training resources to help SMEs adapt and transform their businesses at this critical time, this includes our Meta Boost and SheMeansBusiness programs that support ASEAN MSMEs no matter where they are along their business journey. Today’s sessions underlined the importance of supporting SMEs with digitalization to contribute to economic recovery and resilience and we look forward to continuing to partner with US-ABC to scale these efforts,” said Mr. Ruici during his presentation.
Finally, Ms. Nugraheni Utami, Manager of the Council’s SME Initiative, promoted the ASEAN SME Academy website to the audience. ASEAN SMEs are encouraged to use the website to upskill themselves. The ongoing project to re-develop the Academy is also being socialized in order to reach more SMEs that can utilize this platform when it is re-launched in 2022.
Concluding this webinar, Mr. Landry Subianto, the Council’s Chief Country Representative for Indonesia, reiterated the importance of a robust digital creative economy to benefit ASEAN SMEs in his closing remarks.
This is the first ASEAN level capacity building activity that the Council has conducted during COVID-19. The ongoing capacity building initiatives by the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have been a key pillar of the Council for one decade now. In 2011, the Council established a training program for ASEAN small businesses in response to a request by the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN small businesses in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Currently, nearly 15,000 small businesses have benefitted from Council’s SME programs across the region.
In order to increase the Academy accessibility to entrepreneurs, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy in 2016. The Online Academy is a self-help and self-paced learning platform for SMEs that provides access to free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-organized by the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippines Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). To read more about the academy and how to develop your SME, please visit www.asean-sme-academy.org.