ASEAN SME Academy 2.0 A Regional Approach To Support Businesses

The US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) officially launched ASEAN SME Academy 2.0, an upgraded version of the online learning platform.

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.

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 and 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 maximise our impact and support ASEAN’s comprehensive recovery,” he added. 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 to 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 their 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:

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