Today, 27 June, is Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day as designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSME (ACCMSME) joins the global community to commemorate MSME Day to highlight the importance and strong contribution of MSMEs to livelihoods, communities and economies; and to raise awareness on the need to support MSMEs toward their success and development.
With about 64 million enterprises strong throughout the region, MSMEs constitute the backbone of ASEAN economies. It contributes a significant share of total establishments of between 88.8% and 99.9%, and a share of total employments of between 51.7% and 97.2%2.
(Source: ASEAN SME Policy Index 2014)
Despite their significance to ASEAN’s economy, MSMEs are prone to the challenges posed by globalisation, technological advances, and stiff competition from larger businesses, making MSMEs’ sustainability fragile. The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has provided renewed impetus in the development and promotion of MSMEs in the region’s economic integration efforts; thus ensuring support for MSMEs to face such challenges whilst also providing opportunities for MSMEs to grow.
Under the AEC 2025 Blueprint, ASEAN has placed a great emphasis on the promotion of innovation to enable MSMEs to grow by seizing the opportunities provided by the region’s economic integration.
“With the growing acknowledgement of MSMEs’ significant contribution to the ASEAN economy, ACCMSME is committed to MSME development, aiming to realise the vision of globally competitive, resilient and innovative MSMEs,” said ACCMSME Chair Lor Sathya.
“Under the guidance of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development (SAP SMED) 2025 and support from our dialogue and development partners, we have forged regional efforts to help MSMEs grow and reap the benefits of AEC,” he added.
Lor further explained that among the ACCMSME initiatives were the adoption of the ASEAN Regional Principles on Good Business Registration Practices, launch of the ASEAN SME Academy (http://www.asean-sme-academy.org) as the online learning tool for MSMEs, SME Service centre (www.aseansme.org ) as the online portal for information and services on MSME and the AEC, various publications, and capacity building and forums for public and private sectors to promote productivity, innovation capacity, and digital technology skills.
The ACCMSME is the AEC body that promotes cooperation among member states as well as between ASEAN and its international partners, both public and private, to support the development of MSMEs, guided by the SAP SMED 2025.
Among the ACCMSME initiatives’ benefactors is Ms.Dauphine Alviar, a woman micro entrepreneur, who learned about marketing for start-up businesses through the online ASEAN SME Academy. “It offers a lot of knowledge and information, the kind that I have never received in school or anywhere else,” Dauphine said. “I believe I owe some of my success to learning from the Academy,” she added.
Empowering MSMEs through Innovation
Innovation for MSMEs is not always about using sophisticated technology tools or fully digital production process. It can also come in the form of new business models, creating new lines of products, better efficiency in production processes, as well as in intensifying their promotion efforts—all to ensure that MSMEs’ products are competitive and relevant to the ever-changing market demands. However, the process towards innovation is often not within MSMEs’ reach, either due to the lack of resources or limited access to technology.
For that reason, multiple efforts have been initiated to provide the best innovative ecosystem for MSMEs in ASEAN. One such initiative is the ASEAN Business Incubator Network (ABINet) which aims to promote SME competitiveness that will better prepare ASEAN MSMEs to internationalize and expand their products across the border. Through ABINet, the SMEs will be able to obtain assistance in the form of the co-incubation program from fellow ASEAN Technology Business Incubators and also various ASEAN-based venture capitals.
Aside from the regional initiatives, there are also a number of efforts at the national level to provide supporting mechanisms for MSMEs to embrace innovation in their business process. In commemorating MSME Day 2018, some of these inspiring stories and good practices from both the public and private sectors are shared in the links below:
 SAP SMED 2025 KPI Baseline Survey Report (2017)
 ASEAN SME Policy Index 2014
 For publications, please click the link: http://asean.org/asean-economic-community/sectoral-bodies-under-the-purview-of-aem/micro-small-and-medium-enterprises/press-release-and-statement/
 Lessons from the ASEAN SME Academy, USAID (2018)