Youth and women entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries had the opportunity to network and enhance their understanding of ASEAN and of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ROK) cooperation at a seminar on “Participation of Youth and Women in SME Development” that concluded in Siem Reap, Cambodia, over the weekend.
The seminar focused on the ASEAN-ROK cooperation in SME development, trade and economic relations, export and innovation issues, and the roles of youth and women in the SME sector. The Seminar was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia.
H.E Nong Sakal, Director General of ASEAN-Cambodia Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, highlighted that 2014 is a milestone year for ASEAN-Republic of Korea relations as both sides mark the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-ROK dialogue relations. He noted that the involvement of women and youth in the labor force can significantly boost per capita incomes and GDP growth in emerging markets.
The ASEAN-ROK seminar was held to provide a platform for youth and women entrepreneurs from AMS and ROK to exchange views on challenges and opportunities in the SME sector given SMEs' integral role in the economic development of ASEAN and ROK. Further, it aims to encourage youth and women in SMEs participation in the supply chain and to strengthen their competitiveness, flexibility and business sustainability.
The seminar noted the strong role of youth and women in ASEAN community building and highlighted the main challenges facing youth and women entrepreneurs. These included inadequate information on ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and on opportunities under the AEC, limited skills and understanding of entrepreneurship issues and mindset that do not regard entrepreneurship highly as a good career option, inadequate support from government, and lack of infrastructure and financing.
To strengthen youth and women participation in business and SME development, participants urged that youth and women entrepreneurs be provided more capacity building including holding more of such seminars targeted at specific needs; establishing an e-platform for youth and women entrepreneurs to interact and network on ASEAN issues; promoting better government policies in supporting SMEs (including policies and mechanism to support innovation), ensuring availability of alternative financing mechanisms and the establishment of a strong monitoring mechanism to make certain the programmes are implemented and are sustainable.
Supported by the Government of Korea, the seminar urged that these recommendations be submitted to the relevant ASEAN committees for follow-up action.