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ASEAN SME Academy Towards Pandemic Recovery

    As the rest of the world remains to find itself recuperating from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a glimmer of hope shines for the future of small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) of ASEAN members. Last March 21, 2022, the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signaled the redesign of the ASEAN SME Academy, an e-learning platform dedicated to training and upskilling MSMEs in Southeast Asia amidst the global health and economic crisis. 

    The Academy is an online training tool created under the guidance of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) and the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry — Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development (DTI-BSMED) which provides an interactive learning platform on the fields of finance, branding, marketing, trade, and technology. One of the strong points of the initiative is its provision of highly competent training sessions from a variety of multinational companies and international organizations. 

    “The redesigned platform will be user-friendly, content-rich, and accessible in at least two key regional languages. We’re upgrading the academy to reach many more MSMEs and give them the tools to grow their business as the region emerges from the pandemic,” said Ambassador Ted Osius, President and CEO of the ASEAN-Business Council. 

    MSMEs are an integral part of economic recovery within the region. In fact, these enterprises constitute between 88.8% and 99.9% of total establishments and contribute between 51.7% and 97.2% of total employment in Southeast Asia. Given the combined GDP of US$2.7 billion in 2017, the region’s economy is set to increase by 5% each year and is projected to be the fourth largest economy by 2030. However, 2020 research by the World Bank showed that MSMEs suffered the most at the onslaught of the pandemic as many struggled to compete with larger firms and filed for bankruptcy. Needless to say, utilizing these enterprises as a tool for economic recovery requires heavy transitions toward new skills and technologies. 

    The revamped version of the Academy is set to launch in April 2022 which hopes to improve its accessibility and widen its scope of courses in order for more businesses to be trained and guided with capacity-building programs that will help bolster increased economic growth. Moreover, this initiative advances the accomplishment of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025 which envisions the formation of globally competitive MSMEs by prompting innovation, technology, and productivity while improving market access and strengthening entrepreneurship and human capital development. 

    by: Noelle Azarcon

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