Jun 6, 2012

Chambers of Commerce and Industries (CCIs) are urged to play a vital and pivotal role in the development of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by solidifying their position as intermediaries between the public and private sectors.

Given their pivotal intermediary role, CCIs are mandated to engage in SME development and act as the focal point to represent the collective voice of SMEs in their respective countries. However, the roles of the CCIs and their impact on SME development are seldom discussed at the policy level. Indeed, the needs and challenges of this important institution are not sufficiently recognized.

Given this context, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a two day regional workshop titled Strengthening the Role of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in SME Development. The workshopwas officiated by Consul General Jose Luis U. Yulo, Jr, President, Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands and Mr. Christopher Choong, Economist, Socio-Economic Development Cluster, United Nations Development Programme for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

The two day workshop, attended by 40 participants, represents a strategic opportunity for UNDP, Government agencies and departments involved in SME development and CCIs to share their experiences on the roles of CCIs as well as their needs and the challenges they face whilst engaging in SME development.

Mr. Choong said, “It is an accepted wisdom among development practitioners and policy makers that SMEs are the leading economic drivers across the region, often providing more than half the labour force employment and accounting for the majority of exports. Therefore, to achieve success, SMEs need to be supported by both the public and private sector given their vulnerability to market shocks and often weak human resources, technical knowledge, and access to capital.

SME driven economic programmes are said to have high development contributions and outcomes. For example, the development of SMEs is absolutely vital in the battle against poverty and in achieving goal one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which is eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as ensuring productive and meaningful employment.  There is also an important role for women entrepreneurs in economic development and it is broadly agreed that the emancipation and economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs has contributed to nation building and poverty reduction in many countries.”

The workshop will solicit views from Government agencies and departments working in support of SME development as well as CCIs on the means to address the gaps identified and undertake needs assessment and brainstorming on new and innovative ideas through expert facilitation to improve the current engagement of CCIs with SMEs. The inputs, ideas, and recommendations generated from this workshop will be codified into lessons and best practices relevant for developing countries.  

Commenting on the role of CCIs, Mr. Choong added that, “CCIs plays an important intermediary role bridging the concerns and information asymmetries between policy makers and business interests. Given their pivotal intermediary role, CCIs are sometimes mandated to engage in SME development and often act as the focal point to represent the collective voices of SMEs in their respective countries. This includes policy advocacy and advisory services, mentorship programmes, providing a platform for business networking as well as publishing trade and industry-related research.

CCIs can play a huge role in the growth and promotion of SMEs by acting as a bridge between governments and the private sector. They are often involved with various government agencies in initiating communications and interaction by holding dialogues as well as presenting proposals to the government on how to improve and enhance SMEs. In addition, CCIs can help identify domestic and foreign business opportunities, conduct surveys, business analysis, undertake data collection and produce relevant knowledge products and events to help the business community.

More importantly, CCIs have the potential to collaborate closely with the government on aspects of policy making with clear targets, well defined plans, innovative strategies and realistic implementation timetables. Contention over policy reform and the frameworks in which policies were negotiated were critical forces leading to the origin of local chambers of commerce.”

The workshop is part of the UNDP project titled “South-South and Triangular Cooperation for SME Development in Asia” which aims to assist developing countries in Asia make progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals through SME growth and development. This project supports the strengthening of SME policy formulation and institutional reform as well as institutional support for training, technological exchanges and market access in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other countries in the region through South-South Cooperation.

This project will also be able to harness the organisational ability of Technonet Asia as a regional platform for network among SME players in the region and as the repository of knowledge to further develop relevant and targeted programmes that will address the needs of CCIs in SME development.

“Participants will be able to tap into the institutional memory of Technonet Asia which has been instrumental in SME development and growth in the region since its inception in 1970. The revitalized Technonet Asia, which is currently being established in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with the partnership of the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM), will be exploring new business models supported by modern technology to address emerging needs of SME stakeholders in Asia based on a reassessment of current and emerging global and regional economic trends and issues. Technonet Asia can only become an important and effective network of South-South Cooperation with the support and contribution of public and private SME players in the region.” added Mr. Choong

Among the agencies in attendance at the workshop are the National Agency for Science & Technology Information Vietnam, the SME Corp Malaysia, the Entrepreneurship Promotion Division of Bhutan, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the International Organisation Cooperation on SME, the Federation of Indian Micro & Small Medium Enterprises and the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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