Regional Conference Promotes Funding Access for Women Entrepreneurs and Better SME Development

HANOI – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kick off a two-day regional conference starting today that addresses issues facing women entrepreneurs focusing on the lack of access to financing, especially those in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Often considered the backbone of ASEAN economies, many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) still face challenges in their start-up, development and becoming international. Women entrepreneurs in the region face even more constraints ranging from complete lack of access to funds to only being able to access them at less favorable terms; for example, at higher interest rates, a higher share of required collateral for loans, or shorter terms or loan repayment.

Around 150 participants are taking part in the conference, which begins with a review of an academic paper on SME funding mechanisms by Professor William J. Scheela of Bemidji State University, an American finance expert, and Dr. Janti Gunawan, an international business partnership consultant from Indonesia. The conference includes presentations from public and private sector representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam as well as representatives from international organizations such as GIZ, the International Labour Organization, the International Finance Corporation, and USAID.

Mr. Nguyen Hoa Cuong, Deputy Director-General, Agency for Enterprise Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Government of Vietnam; Madame Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh, Chairwoman of Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council, Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Chairwoman of ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network; and Chargé d’affaires, Embassy of the United States, Ms. Claire Pierangelo gave welcoming remarks.

Conference participants will share good practices, success stories and lessons learned in the implementation of SME funding initiatives and programs. They prepared an agenda for action in fostering better access to finance for SMEs, especially those owned by women entrepreneurs. The conference also features a session where banks and microfinance institutions from the subregion receive advice and suggestions on innovative SME finance options.

The conference was organized in collaboration with the Agency for Enterprise Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment in Vietnam, GIZ, the USAID-Development Credit Authority (DCA) and other local stakeholders such as the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network-Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), and the Vietnam Microfinance Working Group.

Organized by the U.S. Government-funded ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) project, the regional conference in Hanoi is a platform for information and knowledge sharing, networking and public-private dialogue on SME funding problems and solutions, especially concerning women entrepreneurs. ACTI is a five-year project of USAID and the U.S. Department of State to support ASEAN economic integration.

For more information about the Regional SME Conference, contact Ms. Penchan Manawanitkul (penchan.manawanitkul@asean.org) at the ASEAN Secretariat.