Digitalization is a great equalizer that levels the playing field for large and small business players, the country’s trade chief said at the successful Philippine hosting of the ASEAN 2017 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Development Summit on 14 July.

Sec Ramon Lopez at #ASEANMSME2017
DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez speaking at the ASEAN 2017 MSME Development Summit.

“Through innovation and digitalization, we are confident that MSMEs can leapfrog their status as globally-competitive enterprises, thus benefitting everyone in ASEAN,” said ASEAN Economic Ministers chairman and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

He explained that adopting a business model that considers processes and systems innovation, including the integration of digital strategies and e-commerce in market operations is a big growth enabler for MSMEs.

While continuing the efforts to enhance the country’s foreign trade and investments, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) maintains its solid attention on developing MSMEs as backbone of the economy and as the prime mover of both domestic and regional growth.

Sec. Lopez expressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to widen the gains of the ASEAN Economic Integration, as well as considered the Summit “the result of the shared vision to make growth truly inclusive and felt by the people.”

“Making growth felt by everyone can only happen if we are successful in empowering the bottom of the pyramid. In the realm of business, we must effectively tap the potential of our MSMEs, which form a significant part in our region’s growth resurgence,” he said.

According to him, there must be an effective enabling ecosystem with strategic imperatives at the regional level to upgrade the capabilities of MSMEs in ASEAN.

“Teaching them how to fish is the real solution to fight poverty,” Sec. Lopez added.

“If we talk of upgrading competencies, simply put, we want to make smarter entrepreneurs. For this to happen, the watchword is innovation, as showcased by the demonstrated capacity of many of our MSMEs in the ASEAN region,” he said.

The Summit noted that while MSMEs comprise about 95-99% of all business establishments, they still do not account for a commensurate output share in terms of Gross Domestic Product and exports.

As the ASEAN Economic Community creates opportunities and challenges for MSMEs in the region, the need for MSMEs to retool and upgrade to maximize their participation in the local and value chains has become even more imperative.

To this end, the Philippines pursued its seven-point strategic framework or 7Ms to help ASEAN entrepreneurs start up, sustain, expand and internationalize their own businesses to make them smarter. The 7Ms refer to Mindset, Mastery, Mentoring, Markets, Money, Machines and Models.

The Manila Call to Action on the 7Ms for ASEAN MSME Development, which was adopted on 14 July took into account recommendations from the Summit.

In a bid to unite ASEAN for the empowerment of the region’s MSMEs, the Summit underscored the steadfast commitment to make the sector a vital engine in realizing the aspired-for regional prosperity.

With the theme 7Ms Toward Shared Prosperity in ASEAN, the Summit gathered some of the thought leaders in the business community, MSME advocates, representatives from ASEAN Governments, as well as business mentors and experts on marketing strategies and communications, planning and execution.