Dr. Vu Tien Loc, Chairman and President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry;

H.E. Gareth Ward, British Ambassador to Vietnam;

Leaders and representatives from ASEAN countries;

Representatives from the Vietnamese government, embassies, business sector, investors, and mass organizations;

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you today at the ASEAN STARTUP FORUM 2020 organized by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and this year’s host the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We highly appreciate the partnership of the Government of the United Kingdom in this endeavor to promote startup development and growth in ASEAN and in Viet Nam.

  Allow me to highlight three points:

[Keypoint 1: The important role of ASEAN Startups for inclusive and sustainable development]

Ladies and gentlemen,

 Asia is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s youth, about 700 million young people. It is estimated that they account for half of the jobless people, in the region. At the same time, youth are a tremendous source of creativity and innovation and many are channeling this energy into entrepreneurship. The region has one of the highest young start-up rates across the globe, and 40 percent of these startups are creating jobs. In countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for over 70 percent of the jobs in the private sector.  

It is the young business owner, investor, and worker who are often the more socially and environmentally conscious and wants to pursue more sustainable ways of producing and consuming that better serves people and the planet. They often have better access to data and information about the markets, in terms of good and bad practices on corporate governance, human rights, climate change and new technology. Investing in youth startups and helping them sustain their businesses through this period of crisis, is an investment in the next generation of investors and job creators, and the future of doing business in the region.

[Keypoint 2: Digital transformation is key to increase transparency, institutional effectiveness, and social inclusion]

As ASEAN countries prepare for the transition to Industry 4.0 and the next development stage, transparency and digital transformation are critical aspects to ensure good governance, a fair business environment and firm competitiveness.

In the context of COVID-19, the impetus for digital transformation has taken center stage. Online services and digital transformation can ensure smooth and quality service delivery amid restrictive measures on social distancing. The ASEAN Summit that was recently organized in Hanoi was also the first annual ASEAN Summit held virtually throughout 53 years of its history.

However, in addition to using technology to deliver quality and affordable products and services, a successful global digital transformation in which no one is left behind must ensure that technology-based innovations are used to achieve social equality. This means reversing the trend of a widening the digital divide that impacts the poorest population and especially the gender internet connectivity gap affecting women-led business.

[Keypoint 3: Collaboration is key to help recover from crisis and transparency is critical to secured effective collaboration.]

On behalf of UNDP, I highly appreciate the efforts and innovation of the Government of Vietnam in organizing this ASEAN Startup Forum 2020 at this “historic” juncture.

Given the high rates of start-ups in the ASEAN region and their drive for innovation and enterprise, there is little doubt that these young entrepreneurs will play a key role in the COVID-19 socio-economic recovery journey, even accelerating it in this region. By supporting youth startups and entrepreneurs in ensuring business integrity and driving sustainable business, we will contribute not only to rebuilding our economies but also to achieving a societal culture that puts a premium on caring and protecting a more sustainable future for all.  

In UNDP, we have been supporting business development related efforts in Asia and in Viet Nam through various initiatives.

For instance, in 2017, UNDP and the Citi Bank co-created the Youth Co: Lab initiative to support young people in the region to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Youth from ASEAN countries have played an especially active part in these efforts.

Since 2019, two regional UNDP initiatives, Youth Co: Lab supported by the Citi Foundation and the Promoting a Fair Business Environment in ASEAN, supported by the UK Prosperity Fund, under its Economic Reform Programme in ASEAN, teamed up to develop a package of training programs and materials, tools and resources to support and encourage young entrepreneurs to operate their businesses with integrity.

This ranges from UNDP’s “Business Integrity Toolkit” an on-line resource that assists young entrepreneurs in dealing with corruption and maintaining business integrity in their practices to an AI chatbot to assist young companies with business integrity and corporate governance standards that can easily be embedded in websites frequently visited by young business people.

In Viet Nam, together with the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Start-up Support Centre under the Ministry of Science and Technology and Youth Unions, we are working to promote business integrity, responsible and impact business, and entrepreneurship among young people. This year, more than 140 young entrepreneurs from 26 provinces have received training on how to protect their business from corruption by adopting business integrity tools and practices from the outset. We greatly appreciate the Government of the United Kingdom in supporting a large part of these endeavors through the regional project “Promoting a Fair Business Environment in ASEAN”.

Lastly, UNDP is working to support social impact businesses that are committed to a triple bottom line, driving profit, together with social and environmental impact. In Viet Nam, UNDP joins the Ministry of Science and Technology and other national partners in co-hosting ‘Impact Tech village’ at the annual TECHFEST event that attracts thousands of innovators and investors. We would recommend to ASEAN countries to share this and other models for stimulating start-ups that contribute to sustainable development from the region.  

UNDP is committed to deepening our support to ASEAN countries and businesses in their efforts to develop a vibrant and sustainable startup environment, that contributes to achieving the SDGs in the ASEAN region. We also hope to enhance the partnership between ASEAN countries and other regional hubs around the world.

I wish you all a successful Forum and together contribute a more vibrant, successful start-up ecosystem, that helps delivers a more inclusive, sustainable future for ASEAN and its people.  

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