Themed “Adapt, Upskill, Excel: Building ASEAN SMEs’ Resilience with the ASEAN SME Academy 2.0,” the launch is the climax of a revamp project that began in 2021, aimed to introduce and publicise the upgrades and new features of the ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 website. The hybrid launch was hosted in the Philippine Trade Training Center Hall in Manila and live streamed via Zoom Webinar, YouTube, and Facebook to audiences across Southeast Asia.
Aiming to reach more micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and help accelerate their businesses recoveries, SME Academy 2.0 introduces many new features including courses available in local languages (Bahasa Indonesia, Thai, and Vietnamese), new attractive visual design features, and top-quality resources including specific modules for COVID-19 recovery.
ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 also offers MSMEs self-certification opportunities, provides access to the SME Community and Academy Facilitators and integrates a seamless interface across both desktop and mobile platforms. The COVID-19 recovery tab focusing on contents specific to support MSMEs’ recovery from the pandemic will be launched in Q3 2022. Overall, the primary goal of the Academy is to provide a platform for ASEAN MSMEs to develop their digital skills.
The introduction of new trade agreements and the onslaught of innovation have made it imperative for ASEAN MSMEs to upskill to keep their businesses afloat. In his remarks, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN, underscored that digitalisation is a new power of growth and competitiveness for every business and every economy. Changing the broader business mindset to harness digital technology is the key to success.
“The ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 is a partnership between the U.S. private sector, the U.S. Government, and ASEAN to help empower small businesses in Southeast Asia,” said Ambassador Ted Osius, President & CEO of US-ABC, in his remarks. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that small businesses needed to adapt in order to survive the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges. To aid in this process, we focused on building a one-stop, virtual learning platform that could maximized our impact and support ASEAN’s comprehensive recovery.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ASEAN Member States have navigated their paths to recovery amidst new outbreaks and virus variants. On the one hand, these changes have provided new opportunities for MSMEs to grow their businesses with new tools, technologies, and resources. Alternatively, the rapidly expanding digital economy also poses new challenges for small businesses, such as developing appropriate competencies in technology management and cybersecurity.
In their remarks, Kate Rebholz, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., of the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and Steven G. Olive, Mission Director for the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, underscored the U.S. commitment in promoting SMEs in the region.
Rebholz stressed that the new initiative will support “thousands of small and medium sized businesses across Southeast Asia as they recover from the pandemic, build resilience for the future, and adapt to the growing digital economy.” Meanwhile, Dr. Olive highlighted that “USAID’s renewed support, together with private-sector partnerships, will help equip ASEAN SMEs with the necessary training, tools, and resources needed to pave the way for a more prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Dato’ Suriani binti Dato’ Ahmad, Chair of ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) and Secretary-General of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, Malaysia, stressed that the pandemic represents both a setback and an opportunity.
“In the face of this grim pandemic, we can celebrate the acceleration of digital transformation, especially in business and learning environments,” she said in her remarks. She further stressed that the public health crisis “spurs the adoption of new ways of working and demands for new skill sets.”
Building and enhancing ASEAN MSME capabilities, especially their digital skills, has been the primary goal of collaboration between US-ABC and the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry. The upgraded website aims to expand the Academy’s reach while better catering to the constantly evolving needs of ASEAN MSMEs.
In her keynote address, Dr. Rafaelita M. Aldaba, Undersecretary for the Competitiveness and Innovation Group of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, emphasised the importance of expanding the ASEAN SME Academy. She said, “The post pandemic future demands MSMEs to adapt to the new normal of doing business, highlighting the need to adopt new technologies and capture opportunities in the digital economy. The ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 will ensure that we continue to embrace a people-centered digital transformation and accelerate recovery through customised entrepreneurial training courses and platforms for business linkages and networking.”
The development of the ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 was supported by US-ABC member companies Amazon Web Services, Meta, Visa, Google and SAP, who reaffirmed the important role of the U.S. private sector in empowering small businesses across the region.
Google emphasised its longstanding commitment to helping more SMEs in the region to grow and connect with new customers globally, for example by equipping them with digital skills through programs such as Grow with Google and Go Digital ASEAN. AWS highlighted its relationship with US-ABC as a Digital Training partner. In addition, Alexandra Stuart, Vice President, Head of Government Engagement for Southeast Asia and International Affairs, Visa, also promoted their “Practical Business Skills” curriculum, a series of courses for small businesses to start, run and grow their business available for ASEAN SMEs on the SME Academy.
The ASEAN SME Academy revamp project, as well as the launch event, is part of US-ABC’s efforts to support ASEAN SMEs. It is a flagship initiative of the ACCMSME, contributing to the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025. The project will be merged with US-ABC’s live training events that have run separately until now.
MSMEs can start learning now by registering for the academy here: https://www.asean-sme-academy.org.
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ASEAN SME Academy
The ASEAN SME Academy platform is a free online learning platform initially launched in 2016 to support MSMEs in the region. This platform is officially endorsed by the ACCMSME and co-administered by the Philippine DTI – BSMED, alongside the PTTC.
As of February 2022, the Academy platform offers more than 95 courses and 375 additional online resources with over 470,000 total online visitors and 9,800 active users. Contributors to the Academy include Adobe, Baker McKenzie, Cisco, Dell, FedEx, Google, HP, Mastercard, Meta, Microsoft, PayPal, SAP, Salesforce, UL, Visa, and organisations including the International Labour Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
ASEAN brings together Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam in a community united by a collective will to promote lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress.
ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME)
ACCMSME is the ASEAN body responsible for strengthening MSMEs’ participation in ASEAN integration and in deepening and broadening their contribution to ASEAN’s economic growth. Comprising ASEAN Member States’ Heads and representatives of MSME agencies, and supported by the ASEAN Secretariat, the ACCMSME facilitates the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 with the mission to create globally competitive, resilient and innovative MSMEs that are seamlessly integrated to the ASEAN community and to achieve inclusive development in the region.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under IGNITE project
USAID works to strengthen and demonstrate democratic values to advance a free, open, and prosperous world through international development programs and disaster assistance. As part of the U.S. strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific, USAID partners with ASEAN to promote prosperity and security through economic inclusion, women’s empowerment, and good governance.
In 2020, USAID and ASEAN signed a five-year, $50 million Regional Development Cooperation Agreement to address regional challenges, economic integration, and rule of law. As part of this support, USAID promotes enterprise-led economic growth and prosperity in the ASEAN region.
US-ASEAN Business Council Institute
The US-ASEAN Business Council Institute, Inc., is the charitable arm of the US-ASEAN Business Council, drawing on the spirit and power of the Council’s membership to create opportunities for deeper engagement by U.S. companies in ASEAN. The Institute focuses its energies on activities that help educate and build the capacity and knowledge base of partners and stakeholders throughout Southeast Asia and serves as an important collective voice, amplifying the impact of U.S. companies’ contributions and dedication.