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Int'l Cooperation

Last updated: Thursday, June 21, 2018


“APEC App Challenge”: Promoting SMEs Participation in Int’l Trade

Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Asia-Pacific region’s most talented software and web developers, including from Vietnam, recently gathered in Hanoi to participate in a 24-hour app challenge focused on building products that address a persistent regional challenge: how can more micro and small businesses start exporting to foreign markets?

The “APEC App Challenge”, which is an APEC initiative by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), the Asia Foundation, and Google, is one of activities delivered at the 23rd Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting (MRT 23) in Hanoi. This setting is to encourage interactions and learning between APEC policy makers and App Challenge participants from the Asia and Pacific region and provide a creative class for young software entrepreneurs. 

“Although the internet has dramatically cut down the exporting costs for SMEs, especially in developed economies, businesses in the region are facing a number of challenges, and the benefits from international trade remain elusive,” explained Vietnam E-Commerce and Information Technology’s Principle Deputy Director General, Ms Lai Viet Anh.

“We hope that these creative young developers will encourage APEC policy-makers to learn how to apply technology to some of the real concerns people face when they want to expand their businesses,” Ms Lai Viet Anh continued.

The topic of APEC App Challenge is particularly important for the Asia-Pacific region, where MSMEs make up roughly 98 per cent of all businesses and employ two-thirds of the region’s labour force. Whereas the internet has dramatically cut the exporting costs for MSMEs, especially in developed economies, businesses in the region are facing a number of challenges, and the benefits from international trade remain elusive. For example, even though Indonesia’s SMEs contribute nearly 60 per cent of GDP, their share of total exports is only 16 per cent. 

Small business owners in Asia-Pacific developing economies face a number of challenges in attempt to access cross-border trade both in terms of physical/ financial infrastructure, and local regulations (i.e. non-tariff barriers). Because of that, exports so far have not been an option for medium, small and micro businesses, but digital platforms have dramatically lowered the costs of exporting. This means that it is the first time MSMEs can consider accessing export markets and taking advantage of global value chains (GVCs).

This APEC App Challenge is a unique effort to generate learning and share new ideas across APEC, concurrently building potential solutions to help small businesses overcome existing barriers. Ultimately, the goal of the app challenge is to highlight new ways of promoting inclusive, innovative, and sustainable growth in Asia-Pacific economies and stipulate policies that will promote more innovation to address trade issues.

Huong Ly

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