Championing ASEAN digital entrepreneurship

Danial Norjidi

In conjunction with Brunei’s Chairmanship of ASEAN this year, the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Brunei (YEAB) is chairing the ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs (AYE) Council.

Established in 2016, the council comprises young entrepreneurs associations across ASEAN and aims to be a platform promoting exchange and cooperation among young entrepreneurs and investors within ASEAN member states as well as encourage members to contribute to the development of ASEAN and international economic cooperation.

The handover of the AYE Council Chairmanship took place during the 5th AYE Carnival 2020 hosted virtually in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam last November.

YEAB shared the theme for Brunei’s ASEAN Chairmanship for 2021 – ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’, reflecting three priority areas: caring for the people and each other’s well-being; preparing for future opportunities and challenges; and prospering together as a unified region.

YEAB President and AYE Council 2021 Chair Nurliyana Fatin binti Arifin said, “Echoing His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s view that ASEAN must continue to strengthen our solidarity and continue to advance together, YEAB during our chairmanship shall aim to continue to champion micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), digitalisation and contribute to the development of a more conducive and vibrant digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in ASEAN with our AYE Council colleagues.

A screenshot of YEAB President and AYE Council 2021 Chair Fatin Arifin receiving a flag signifying 2021 AYE Council Chairmanship from Vietnam Young Entrepreneurs Association Chairman Dang Hong Anh. PHOTO: YEAB

“This is one of the most challenging times to be an entrepreneur (globally) simply because no one expected a pandemic of this scale to disrupt connectivity, impact businesses and economies especially in the age of globalisation. This pandemic also accelerated the shift to e-commerce not just in ASEAN but globally.”

“So promoting digitalisation among MSMEs is timely and paramount; and supporting them to overcome the challenges of digitalisation will continue to be a priority especially as COVID-19 pandemic is the new paradigm. At the 5th AYE Carnival, we heard that so much work remains to be done for MSMEs to access opportunities inclusively.”

Nurliyana Fatin described YEAB being chair of the AYE Council this year as “an opportunity we greatly welcome”, and said they “hope to continue the legacy in promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship further and shall be guided by AYE Council’s principles to generate more opportunities with each other”.

The Vietnam Young Entrepreneurs Association put together the 5th AYE Carnival digitally in the face of COVID-19, bringing together ASEAN entrepreneurs virtually. The carnival also saw the unveiling of the AYE Council website, which YEAB will continue to build as a digital home for young entrepreneurs.

YEAB expects to host the 6th AYE Carnival digitally this year and host online engagements to connect ASEAN entrepreneurs.

“We are preparing and hope to host the virtual AYE Carnival. We are also gradually socialising about the chairmanship with key stakeholders and explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships,” said the YEAB president.

They are also aiming to host several online series in the form of forums and potentially workshops for ASEAN MSMEs, leveraging on the strong network and resources that they have within the AYE Council.

Since 2020, YEAB in partnership with EICA, Google Developer’s Group (GDG) Brunei, Maven’s Hive, LiveWIRE Brunei and Think Axis has been hosting physical and virtual workshops to support MSMEs digital adoption under the ASEAN MSMEs Go Digital initiative.

Since July, they hosted over 25 workshop series in various focus areas including digital accounting, social media, marketing and digital collaboration, engaging with over 500 MSMEs. They expect to continue this initiative until May, and are hoping to reach out to 1,500 MSMEs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need to be digitally ready and savvy, so through these workshops we want to provide the tools and know-how for businesses to adapt to new digital technologies to rise above the challenges brought by the pandemic, especially as it has now become an imperative for businesses to be future ready and crisis proof,” Nurliyana Fatin said.

She affirmed that YEAB aspires to play its part in developing entrepreneurs with global vision, mindset and ambition, adding that the association continues to encourage and also challenge young entrepreneurs to go beyond their potential. Asked what her hopes are for YEAB’s chairmanship of the AYE Council this year, Nurliyana Fatin said, “YEAB has been actively advocating for MSMEs and young entrepreneurs to venture into the international market. So with the strong network of young entrepreneurs within ASEAN through the AYE Council, we hope to provide opportunities for networking and exposure for young entrepreneurs.

“With the GO Digital ASEAN workshop series, we aim to continue to empower and equip MSMEs with the capability to transform their businesses to be future ready and resilient.

“While 2021 will be a year of recovery for some, adjustments as businesses globally are continuing to adapt to the new paradigm, we believe that this year is an opportune year for our Bruneian entrepreneurs to explore international partnerships and collaboration, leveraging on the digital economy.”