News

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs for Cross-Border Trade in ASEAN

21 February 2024
ASEAN Access Ambassadors promote the platform and its features, indirectly boosting women's empowerment. Initial appointees include six women entrepreneurs from Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
ASEAN Access Ambassadors promote the platform and its features, indirectly boosting women's empowerment. Initial appointees include six women entrepreneurs from Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Nurturing MSMEs in ASEAN

Inclusive and sustainable economic development in ASEAN relies on leveraging the potential of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as the region’s backbone. Within the framework of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), Member States are committed to enhancing the competitiveness, resilience, and integration of MSMEs into regional and global markets.

A particular consideration is strengthening the role of women entrepreneurs as an emerging force in trade, noting that over 60 million businesses in ASEAN are led or owned by women. Aside from abolishing legal and bureaucratic hurdles, this means addressing persistent societal biases that inhibit women’s entrepreneurial success in the face of familial and household duties.

Launched in 2021, ASEAN Access is a regional one-stop platform designed to facilitate cross-border market access for MSMEs within and beyond ASEAN. The platform is owned by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) and taps on a network of more than 40 public and private organisations. Key features of the platform include virtual matchmaking, online learning sessions as well as information resources, such as sector briefs or market talks.

To date, ASEAN Access possesses a database of 360 accredited service providers and has hosted activities catering to over 3,000 registered SMEs. While the focus lies on supporting internationalization through updates on import, export and e-commerce, linkages also exist to national SME promotion portals in the ASEAN Member States that offer a broader range of services “from the ground up”.

Women Stepping Up as Business Champions

Over the years, engagement via ASEAN Access has greatly benefitted from the active contributions and commitment of women from the MSME community. Since 2023, six female business leaders have been appointed by ASEAN Member States to act as so-called “ASEAN Access Ambassadors” (AAA) in order to help mobilize wider networks in the different countries and encourage participation in cross-border activities.

At the same time, their role as AAA allows for these women entrepreneurs to raise their own profile and visibility. The latter corresponds to the particular need, echoed by numerous women entrepreneurs, to see and be positive role models for achievements in a rather male-dominated business world. With women uplifting other women, it also fosters mutual learning and mentoring.

Says one of the AAA, Ms. Chanleakhena Sophat (Lina) who manages local law firm in Cambodia: “Struggling to secure clients during the pandemic, I decided to become more involved in the work of the Cambodian Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA), one of the network partners of ASEAN Access, and to build partnerships, particularly with women in similarly challenging positions. Becoming an ASEAN Access Ambassador has allowed me to link up with entrepreneurs in various ASEAN countries, not only women –it has expanded my professional network and presented new business opportunities.”

What’s Next?

The AAA are integral for the longer-term viability of the ASEAN Access platform and a strategic asset in sustaining its dynamic public-private network. Moving forward, their involvement in further promotional activities for ASEAN Access is foreseen, alongside more concrete business matchmaking, notably between Cambodia and Viet Nam. Providing more resources tailored to the needs of female entrepreneurs, for example by connecting to the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (AWEN), is also on the agenda.

Watch some initial perspectives here (AAA video):  Why you should join ASEAN Access? Insights from ASEAN Access Ambassadors and Network Partners.

ASEAN Access receives technical assistance from the ASEAN SME II project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ. 

Link to Further Materials
https://www.aseanaccess.com/

Contact Person
Sita Zimpel

Key Buzzwords
#Women #Entrepreneur #SMEs #ASEAN