Building a more inclusive ASEAN

ASEAN-BAC Philippines chair Joey Concepcion led the successful ASEAN Business Investments Summit 2017. President Duterte, together with other ASEAN country leaders, graced the event that launched Concepcion’s ASEAN-BAC legacy project ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network.


Normally, the first week of November is scheduled as our family’s vacation, and a solemn day of remembering our departed loved ones. This week, we are off to Thailand to attend the multiple ASEAN engagements, including the ASEAN Inclusive Business and Investment Summit (ABIS), and ASEAN Business Advisory Council briefing, among others. This year also, the ASEAN-BAC chairmanship will be handed over from Thailand to Vietnam.

The ABIS will cover different themes that shed light on the opportunities and challenges brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR). There will be a total of six sessions, dealing with topics such as how to maximize gains from the global value chains (GVC), the processes of digital adaptation, transformation of the manufacturing sector, MSMEs’ access to finance, digital connectivity, human empowerment and development, as well as the role of the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) program in helping achieve inclusive growth in the region.

AMEN was among our legacy projects as the chairman of the ASEAN-BAC in 2017. With a vision to create a more inclusive ASEAN, I started the advocacy with Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez who also believes in the importance of mentorship to help our micro, small, and medium-sized entrepreneurs. The AMEN project aims to assemble a pool of duly-certified mentors across the ASEAN region, as well as to develop and share world-class MSME teaching modules among ASEAN member-countries.

Last Sept. 27, as the chairman of the ASEAN-BAC Philippines, I had the honor of leading the culmination of the successful implementation of the pilot program of AMEN in three ASEAN member states (AMS), namely Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. With the support of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), the program provided MSMEs with free and quality mentorship by bringing together a network of competent mentors across the ASEAN states. We believe that MSMEs should be guided throughout the process, from inception to conceptualization and implementation of their business ideas.

Mentorship is not new to Go Negosyo as we have been advocating this for almost 15 years now. As we celebrate our anniversary next year, we are proud to say that our mentorship program has already reached a global platform and is helping more micro and small entrepreneurs. I remember when Go Negosyo started in 2005, not everyone was open to the idea of entrepreneurship. Doing business was not the first career choice out of college. With the aid of today’s digital era, many are already jumping into the idea of innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Duterte also attested to the significance of AMEN, saying the program not only provides more jobs for the communities, but also helps in the transformation of our MSMEs into more globally competitive entities.

He also called on the ASEAN-BAC to help upgrade the skills of the workforce in ASEAN. Speaking as a guest of honor during the ASEAN-BAC interface in Thailand last year, President Duterte emphasized the importance of technology and digitalization, which affects all industries and is thus essential for all MSMEs to gain a deeper understanding of.

This year, Thailand’s theme is basically about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In our cause and advocacy, I’ve come to see that the most urgent task is helping MSMEs to adapt to the 4th IR, which is marked by continuously evolving digital and technological innovation. We have to teach our entrepreneurs and businessmen how to adapt to the dynamic landscape and adopt technology and innovation to further their businesses. It’s moving their enterprises from simply operating on survival mode to sustainability and success. This is essentially where the importance of mentorship comes in.

Recently, Go Negosyo teamed up with ASEAN-BAC Philippines and the Singapore Management University to lead the first-ever ASEAN Family Business Conference that was attended by more than 800 participants. The conference also allowed local and foreign mentors to bring new insights into key areas driving inclusive economic growth in the country, such as the areas of agribusiness, tourism, and digitalization.

Our entrep-mentors not only impart essential technical knowhow to our MSMEs, but also link them to essential financing institutions and market connections so they can start or scale up their own businesses. They are agents of inclusive growth who extend our mission of prosperity for all to every possible area in the region.

Mentoring, in fact, is also a life-changing experience for our mentors because every session is an opportunity for them to get a deeper understanding of issues confronting our micro and small entrepreneurs. I believe that through MSME mentorship, the ASEAN countries will have a greater chance of accelerating their growth and enhancing the well-being of their people, especially those living below the poverty line. I see that changing people’s mindset toward entrepreneurship, especially digital entrepreneurship, is what will move our society forward. It has always been my mission to help enhance the capacity of the widest network of people as possible so that they themselves can transform their own lives. I hope the AMEN will continue this advocacy for many more years until our mission of inclusive growth is achieved not only in the region, but also in the whole globe.