Latest ASEAN news

Skills Development Award in 2021 open for application

After the successful launch of the Skills Development Award in 2019, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council has integrated it as one of the main award categories in the ASEAN Business Awards.
In 2021, under the chairmanship of ASEAN Business Advisory Council Brunei Darussalam, GIZ-RECOTVET continues supporting the organization of the Skills Development Award that honours outstanding businesses that have demonstrated a significant contribution to human resources development in ASEAN. Applicants are capable of developing a skilled workforce, especially considering the expected impacts of Industry 4.0 for a competitive and dynamic ASEAN economic community.
The Skills Development Award is awarded in cooperation with the German government's RECOTVET programme, implemented by GIZ.

Why join?
Validation and recognition;
Media exposure and regional publicity;
Business development opportunities.

Who can apply?
Be an ASEAN-incorporated enterprise with at least 40% ASEAN-owned equity;
Be in operations for a minimum of 3 (SMEs) to 5 (Large companies) years;
Preferably have an operational presence in 2 or more ASEAN countries;
Preferably have 2 (SMEs) to 3 (Large companies) years of audited financial statements;
Previous winners of the award are eligible to apply again after 3 years.

What are the criteria?
1. Impact on human resources development through improvements of the quality of skills of the workforce
2. Cooperation with governments or training institutions
3. Innovation and replicability in other sectors or ASEAN member states
4. Sustainability financially and institutionally

How to apply?
Tell us how your company contributes to human resources development in ASEAN by submitting your application before 30 September 2021 on the ASEAN Business Awards 2021 webpage.
For more information, please visit the webpage above or contact us at [email protected].

ASEAN businesses invited to apply for ASEAN Inclusive Business award

ASEAN businesses who have helped resolve the problems faced by the underprivileged are invited to apply for the ASEAN Inclusive Business (IB) Award.

The IB Award is one of the eight categories under this year’s ASEAN Business Awards (ABA), which is being organised by Brunei’s ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) as part of the Sultanate’s ASEAN chairmanship.

The ceremonial awarding will take place virtually on November 10. Each year has seen ABA award multiple winners from different countries in most categories.

The IB Award recognises profitable businesses models have helped provide goods, services or livelihood to the lowest income people in society, defined by the World Bank as those within the base of the economic pyramid (BoP), earning less than US$ 8.44 a day.

Date of Release: 7 September 2021

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Singapore can use fintech to bridge Asean and Africa

The Republic can seize opportunities in financial technology (fintech) to be the bridge between the Asean region and Africa, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan on Tuesday (Aug 24).

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) allows for key trading opportunities within the continent, and also on a regional and global basis, said Mr Tan.

The trade agreement, which came into effect on Jan 1 this year, has created the largest free trade area in the world based on the number of countries it unites.

Fifty-four out of 55 African Union nations, with a combined gross domestic product of US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion), come under the pact which allows access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.

Mr Tan said: "It's not just the free trade area that is exciting, it is also the potential. What do you do with the free trade area, and how do you connect it to Asean through Singapore?"

He was speaking virtually on the topic of economic resilience on Tuesday, at the sixth edition of the Africa Singapore Business Forum organised by Enterprise Singapore.

Mr Tan cited the Afro-Asia FinTech festival, which was part of the Singapore FinTech festival last year.

"I think there's an opportunity for us to grow this fintech growth corridor through Singapore and Kenya, towards Asean," said Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

"Africa has a strength in fintech, and the opportunity set for fintech is just increasing. It's something that Asean can learn, but also there's a lot of interchangeability, because e-payment is huge in Asean and you're basically banking the 'unbanked'."

Mr Tan highlighted some challenges both Asean and Africa are facing, with the first being the Covid-19 pandemic.

A second challenge is on anti-globalisation. "We've seen a little bit more protectionism, great power rivalry and more fragmentation... This headwind is pretty strong at the moment."

But there are also some bright spots, such as in technology - which helps countries to leapfrog infrastructure constraints - and regionalism, with free trade agreements presenting opportunities and facilitating investment.

The AfCFTA agreement will help to regionalise the area - something that Asean has experienced, he said, while acknowledging that Africa is much bigger than Asean.

"It helps to then facilitate the transfer, sale and trading of goods and services, (and) the lowering trade of barriers and regulations so that they don't form an impediment," said Mr Tan.

He noted that it is also important for countries in Africa's free trade area to look into opportunities to connect with other regions.

"Because then it opens up a whole plethora of opportunities... what we've learnt in Asean is that it benefits Asean member states if we step out of Asean as well, because then we are also punching above our size.

"And I think that if the African continent free trade area could also consider doing that, I think the opportunities will be quite limitless."

Source: The Straits Times (Singapore)

Date: 24 August 2021

Reference: Singapore can use fintech to bridge Asean and Africa: Alvin Tan, Economy News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Southeast Asia Added 70 million Online Consumers During Pandemic

The Southeast Asia region, led by Indonesia, added 70 million new online shoppers since the start of the pandemic, according to an annual report by Facebook Inc. and Bain & Co. Surveying more than 16,000 people across Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, the researchers found a rapid pace of digital adoption during the pandemic and related lockdowns. By the end of 2021, they expect each of those countries to have 70% or more of its adult population as digital consumers. The jump from 5% to 9% of online retail penetration also marked faster growth than India, Brazil and China.

Online spending per person across the region in 2020 was $238, outpacing earlier forecasts, and is expected to rise to $381 by the end of 2021. The role of social video tripled in importance for online shopping, with 22% of respondents now citing it as their top channel for discovery. The research also found online groceries to be the fastest-growing segment, with a majority of consumers planning to either maintain or increase their at-home online spending on that and other categories. “What we see in China and the U.S. is more of a channel shift from offline to online, whereas in Southeast Asia the growth in consumer spending and retail is driven by online channels,” Magnus Ekbom, chief strategy officer of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Singapore-based unit Lazada Group SA, said in the report.

About 346 million people in Southeast Asia accessed Facebook daily as of the second quarter of this year. That figure closely mirrors the 350 million forecast to be digital consumers by the end of 2021. The forecast suggests a deceleration of growth after the pandemic-driven surge, as the next 30 million shoppers aren’t expected to come online until 2026. More than 95% of respondents accessed the internet on their smartphones.

Fintech funding
Internet and tech startups grew to dominate venture capital and private equity funding for the region, commanding 88% of deals by value in the first quarter of this year, up from 75% a year earlier. Financial technology, or fintech, was the dominant sub-category with 56% of tech funding, spanning such services as buy-now-pay-later, peer-to-peer lending, digital wallets and cryptocurrency.

“If we went back three years ago, Southeast Asia was still lagging,” Benjamin Joe, vice president of Southeast Asia and emerging markets at Facebook, said during a virtual briefing on Tuesday. “That clearly is not the case. It’s actually leading the way.”

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Brunei third lowest economic risk in Asean

Brunei Darussalam was ranked by Moody’s Analytics to be the third lowest economic risk in ASEAN due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and placed 13th among 20 Asia-Pacific countries.

Moody’s Analytics on Monday was revealed with its Relative COVID-19 Economic Risk Index, which positioned countries in the region using a weight of 50 per cent on the vaccination rate, and 25 per cent each on new COVID-19 cases and deaths per one million population over the latest seven-day period.

All three factors were taken into consideration to determine the relative economic risk, as countries with any combination of low vaccination rates, high incidence of new cases, and high death rates would be at high risk of longer and stricter movement controls that would slow or constrict the pace of economic growth,” said Moody’s Analytics.

Ranked number one or with the lowest risk was Singapore, followed by China, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Japan.

Among ASEAN member countries, Laos was in 9th place while Brunei was at 13th place.

Moody’s Analytics added, “The index provides an indication of where further risk may lie from the economic consequences of COVID-19. Those that rank low could still face longer lockdowns or stricter social distancing measures if conditions do not improve.

“And if this is the case, those governments may have to respond with further fiscal support to manage the economic hit to households, small businesses, and industries hit particularly hard by COVID-19.”

In early August, the Brunei Economic Update published by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) said that Brunei Darussalam’s economic growth outlook remains robust, but uncertainty looms.

Despite a contraction in first quarter (Q1), the Brunei economy is still projected to grow modestly in 2021, reflecting broad-based growth across sectors as external demand and domestic activity strengthen.

In May, the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2021 said Brunei Darussalam’s economy is expected to strengthen in 2021 and 2022 on an improving external environment with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.5 per cent this year and three per cent next year.

Growth in 2021 will be supported by a recovery in global demand and higher oil and gas prices, which will boost government revenue and support government consumption. Private consumption is expected to grow as the economy continues to strengthen.

Date of Release: 1 September 2021

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Heading towards development of ASEAN smart, sustainable city

National representatives of ASEAN member states attended the Fourth ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) via video conference yesterday.

The ASCN chaired by Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) Haji Mohammad Nazri bin Haji Mohammad Yusof, in his capacity as Chair of the ASCN 2021, was also attended by Chief Smart City Officers of member cities, ASCN Shepherd as well as senior officials from ASEAN Secretariat.

The meeting discussed the development of an ASCN Online Portal as well as the development of an ASEAN Smart and Sustainable City Investment Toolkit targetted to be finalised by September.

It also reviewed the progress, challenges, and way forward of the ASCN Smart City Action Plans (SCAPs) of the 26 member cities, including an updated of Kampong Ayer Revitalisation Project and Clean Water River Management Project by Acting Chairman of Bandar Seri Begawan Municipal Department Aminuddin bin Buntar as the Chief Smart City Officer of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The progress and development made with regards to smart city cooperation with the Dialogue Partner and External Partner were also briefed. The meeting agreed for Singapore to renew its tenure as ASCN Shepherd to provide advice and support to the ASCN Chair, in line with the terms of reference, for the next two years.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (Infocommunications) at the MTIC Haji Hairul Mohd Daud bin Haji Abdul Karim, senior officials from MTIC and other ministries were also present.

The ASCN was established in April 2018 at the 32nd ASEAN Summit in Singapore. It currently has 26 member cities from the 10 ASEAN member states. The ASCN meets annually to discuss progress on each city’s action plan, launch new projects, and explore new opportunities with ASEAN’s external partners.

Date of Release: 31 August 2021

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Indonesia's digital market potential projected at $124 billion by 2025

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia's digital market potential will reach US$124 billion, or around Rp1,700 trillion, by 2025, deputy for small and micro enterprises (SMEs) at the Cooperatives and SMEs Ministry, Hanung Harimba Rachman, has said.

"The market is quite large since Indonesia has the most users of e-commerce in Southeast Asia," he noted here on Thursday.

According to Trade Ministry data, Indonesian e-commerce transactions in 2020 reached Rp266 trillion, he said. Meanwhile, as of the second quarter of 2021, the number had reached Rp186.8 trillion – an increase of 63.4 percent, he added.

"We are expecting that the growth will be over Rp400 trillion in 2021," Rachman said.

Furthermore, the number of on-boarding micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital ecosystem have increased to 15.3 million, or 23.9 percent of total MSMEs, amid the pandemic, he informed.

However, he revealed that small businesses will face various challenges in future in terms of unfair business competition, cyber security, digital literacy, as well as the information and communication technology industry, which is still dominated by imported products.

Hence, the Cooperatives and SMEs Ministry is trying to encourage MSMEs actors to enter the digital ecosystem by strengthening the capacity and competitiveness of micro, small, and medium enterprises cooperatives (KUMKM) through the provision of collaboration networks as well as free business incubation and e-learning platforms, Rachman said.

The ministry is also preparing SMESCO – a brand of the ministry’s Cooperatives and SMEs Marketing Service Agency -- as a Center of Excellence for SMEs by providing an exploration and research laboratory for future small enterprises at SMESCO Labo, product curations at Sparc Trade, export assistance at BNI Xpora, business fostering companions at Sparc Campus, and collaboration with various MSME companion associations, he informed.

In addition, SMESCO is also providing logistics support innovations through fulfillment centers (consolidation of the logistics processing of MSMEs products), factory sharing, cloud kitchens, as well as SMESCO’s drop-shipping business platform, he added.

“Through the SMESCO’s Center of Excellence, SMESCO is expected to be able to give solutions to any problems regarding market expansion, raw materials, human resources, data analysis, and logistics. I hope that various collaborations will continue to be carried out between ministries, agencies, SMESCO, local governments, State-Owned Enterprises, the private sector and all related stakeholders to build excellent MSMEs in future," Rachman said.

Meanwhile, president director of SMESCO Indonesia, Leonard Theosabrata, said that it has mapped the growth of various digital platforms comprising e-commerce, ride hailing, and digital payments in Indonesia.

Those platforms have helped Indonesia become the country with the largest and fastest digital economy in ASEAN in the past two years, he added.

Furthermore, SMESCO has fulfilled the five pillars of the microeconomic recovery acceleration approach through digital platforms that manage to reach customers, suppliers, back offices, data analytics, and logistics support, he said.

Reporter: Baqir Alatas, Uyu Liman
Editor: Suharto

Some 30 million MSMEs to join digital trade: Trade Minister

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi is optimistic that the government would persuade more than the targeted 30 million Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to join digital trade by 2023.

"Seeing very positive developments, we are optimistic that the government's target to encourage onboarding of 30 million MSMEs to digital platforms by the end of 2023 will be achieved. It will even exceed the target set by President Joko Widodo," the minister remarked at the Pelangi Sulawesi - Proudly Made in Indonesia Movement (Gernas BBI) event held virtually on Thursday.

Lutfi expects this to drive the performance of the trade sector and facilitate the recovery of the national economy.

In the second quarter of 2021, the national economy recorded a growth of 7.07 percent from the corresponding period in the previous year. Meanwhile, the trade sector recorded a growth of up to 9.44 percent.

E-commerce transactions during the first semester of 2021 also grew significantly by 63.4 percent, with a transaction value of Rp186.7 trillion (almost US$13 billion), and it was estimated to reach at least Rp395 trillion (over US$27 billion) by the end of 2021.

Lutfi stated that until mid-August of 2021, over 15 million, or 22 percent, of the total MSMEs nationwide had joined the digital trade.

"Of the 15 million MSMEs, more than seven million MSMEs are the result of onboarding during the Gernas BBI campaign launched in May 2020," he informed.

He opined that Indonesia, as one of the largest countries globally, had the potential to become a key player in the world's digital economy.

Indonesia's digital economy in 2020 was valued at Rp632 trillion (almost US$44 billion) and is projected to grow eight folds by 2030 to reach up to Rp4,531 trillion (around US$314 trillion).

"This can be achieved if we optimize the development of equitable telecommunications infrastructure and competent human resources as well as through comprehensive regulatory support," he remarked.

According to Lutfi, MSMEs should conduct collaboration and innovation as the main keys to accelerate digital transformation.

Collaboration is deemed necessary between all stakeholders -- the government, private sector, associations, and banks -- in order to succeed in creating strong, capable, and competitive national MSMEs in the global market.

The second key is innovation. National MSMEs must continue to adapt to advancements of digital technology.

"MSMEs, let us improve our ability to read and analyze the market. Be observant in seeing new opportunities domestically and globally and continue to make product breakthroughs and new innovations," he stated.

Lutfi believes that Indonesian MSMEs can grow and contribute to the national economy if these two main keys were applied, complete with support in the form of good regulations, training, comprehensive digital transformation development, and inclusive financing access.

Reporter: Sella P G, Mecca Yumna
Editor: Sri Haryati

Business sentiment among European firms in Asean rebounds to pre-Covid levels

EUROPEAN firms' sentiments about prospects in Asean have rebounded to pre-Covid levels, after having weakened somewhat last year, said the latest business sentiment survey by the EU-Asean Business Council (EU-ABC) has found.

For instance, 82 per cent of respondents expect to expand their levels of trade and investment in the region in the next five years, up from 73 per cent in 2020. The latest figure is close to the 2019 figure of 84 per cent.

The survey was conducted between April and July among 389 respondents across the 10 Asean member states, with the respondents coming from various services or manufacturing industries.

The share of respondents who see Asean as the world region offering the best economic opportunity rebounded to 63 per cent, up from 53 per cent in 2020 and comparable to 2019's figure.

Profit expectations have improved following 2020's low base: 63 per cent of respondents expect their Asean profits to grow year on year, up from 39 per cent in 2020, and 60 per cent in 2019.

However, two-thirds of respondents said they believed that Asean economic integration was progressing too slowly; only 2 per cent thought that the progress was fast enough.

A greater share of respondents also felt that non-tariff barriers to trade in Asean were increasing: 38 per cent, up from 27 per cent in 2020.

Over four-fifths of respondents said there are too many barriers to "the efficient use of supply chains" in the region, up from around three-fifths in 2020.

EU-ABC chairman Donald Kanak said: "This year's survey shows that European business confidence in Asean trade and investment opportunities has rebounded to 2019 levels, but it also highlights a strong perception that the region is falling short in reducing barriers to trade."

He noted that nearly nine in 10 respondents said they would increase their use of regional supply chains if trade was made easier. Nearly half the respondents said that they either had moved or were considering moving their Asean-based supply chains.

EU-ABC executive director Chris Humphrey said: "The fact that our respondents would use regional supply chains more if barriers to trade were reduced is a huge incentive for Asean to take faster and more concrete action on the elimination of non-tariff barriers. Unfortunately, our survey shows that European businesses do not perceive this happening."

On free-trade agreements (FTAs), nearly all respondents continued to wish that the EU would accelerate FTA negotiations with Asean and its members.

However, desire for immediately pursuing a region-to-region FTA has cooled. Just under half of respondents said the EU should pursue this now, down from 71 per cent in 2020.

There is somewhat more support for the idea of a region-to-region investment protection agreement, with 60 per cent of respondents believing that the EU should pursue this.

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)
Date: 1 September 2021


Economic diversification gathers pace as oil reliance wanes: CSPS

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has made “substantial progress” in diversifying its oil-driven economy in recent years, and should continue harnessing its strengths in energy to build an internationally competitive industrial sector, said the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS).

Reviewing Brunei’s diversification efforts in its latest economic report, the think tank said Brunei’s fundamental economic structure has largely remained unchanged for decades as it is still reliant on hydrocarbons.

“There was some indicative diversification success during the 1990s, but similar to the trend of other oil exporters, concentration increased during the 2000s boom,” it added.

However, the start of Hengyi Industries’ oil refinery and petrochemical operations in 2019 has seen decreasing economic dependence on the upstream oil and gas sector.

Oil and gas accounted for 57 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP), 91 percent of merchandise exports and 85 percent of government revenue, according to 2018 data.

By 2020, the hydrocarbon sector’s share in nominal GDP, merchandise exports and government earnings declined to 47 percent, 82 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

In contrast, downstream activities have been the largest driver of economic growth last year with a nine percent rise.

CSPS said the volatility in global oil prices also translates to uncertainty in the Brunei economy.

Revenue from the petroleum industry had plunged 69.9 percent in the 2020/21 fiscal year, following a major oil price collapse triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Diversification helps to lower volatility by stabilising export revenues and hence provide a more stable path for growth and development.

“Besides buffering against commodity price shocks, economic diversification also matters because it is generally accompanied by industrial upgrading through technology diffusion and a shift toward higher productivity sectors and high-paying jobs,” CSPS added.

The think tank further said there is a need to prepare for future resource depletion, and avoid adverse effects arising from a resource windfall.

Image credits: © Getty Images via

Date of Release: 4 August 2021

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September 4, 2021

Cambodia 2nd phase of business registration system up

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) on September 1 deployed Phase II of its online business registration platform, known as the “Single Portal”.

Four new agencies have joined the Single Portal in Phase II, adding more classes of business licences and permits available for application on the platform, with an emphasis on priority sectors, in a bid to support national economic growth during the Covid-19 crisis.

These agencies are the Non-Bank Financial Services Authority’s Real Estate Business and Pawnshop Regulator (REBPB), and the industry, tourism and telecoms ministries, Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth noted during the launch ceremony for Single Portal Phase II.

He said the updated Single Portal system aims to improve the business and investment environment in order to enhance Cambodia’s competitiveness, and is tailored to economic sustainability amid Covid-19, as part of a wider push to digitalise public services.

“The launch Single Portal Phase II clearly epitomises the Royal Government’s reforms to improve the business and investment environment in Cambodia, which have achieved the planned results,” he said.

The addition of the industry ministry would boost registrations of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the incorporation of the REBPR would raise the number of real estate and pawnshop businesses, he said.

“As in Phase I, application for a licence or permit in Phase II can be made entirely online at,” he added.

As of August 24, the number of companies registered through Single Portal was 7,715, with a total capital of nearly $3 billion, he said.


Author: Thou Vireak

Source: The Phnom Penh Post

For full article, please read here

Original publication date: 01 September 2021

Six Cambodias’ firms wanted for food, beverage fair

Cambodian businessmen, producers and other players in the food and beverage industry may soon have the opportunity to find potential business partners and discover new regional brands at the upcoming ASEAN Trade Fair 2021 in Seoul, South Korea.

The Ministry of Commerce, an event facilitator, issued a broad invitation to the four-day trade fair, from November 10-13, organised by the ASEAN-Korea Centre (AKC) in collaboration with the embassies of the bloc’s member states based in Seoul.

It noted that the AKC was looking for six Cambodian businesses in the industry to exhibit their products at the trade fair, listing coffee, tea and desserts as examples.

The ministry invited interested parties to register with the Department of Exhibition Affairs under its General Directorate of Trade Promotion, free-of-charge, no later than September 3.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea has been more resilient that anticipated in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, valued at $451.98 million in the first half of this year, surging by 6.7 per cent year-on-year from $423.51 million, as shown by data from the Korea International Trade Association (Kita).

In the January-June period, the Kingdom exported $159.40 million, down by 1.6 per cent year-on-year from $162.06 million, and imported $292.59 million, up by 11.9 per cent from $261.45 million a year earlier, according to Kita. This means that the trade deficit widened by 34.0 per cent from $99.4 million to $133.2 million.

Cambodia mainly exported footwear and other apparel, travel products, beverages, electrical and electronic components, rubber, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products to South Korea, and imported vehicles, electronics, kitchen appliances, beverages, pharmaceuticals and finished plastics and products, Kita reported.


Author: May Kunmakara

Source: The Phnom Penh Post

For full article, please read here

Original publication date: 30 August 2021