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Empowering SMEs: Cornerstone for Urban Resilience

Date:
23 August 2023

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Jakarta/Manila/Singapore, 23 August 2023: The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the Asian Development Bank Southeast Asia Development Solutions (ADB SEADS) and Resilient Cities (R-Cities), organized a webinar to discuss the importance of resilient small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and cities, which brought together more than 260 online participants across Asia-Pacific.

Empowering SMEs for urban resilience in ASEAN is a vital strategy to enhance the region’s capacity to withstand and recover from challenges such as natural disasters, economic shocks and other disruptions. SMEs play a significant role in the ASEAN economy, contributing to job creation, innovation and overall economic growth. Despite the significant role they play in the urban ecosystem, their contribution often remains under-acknowledged. Untapping the potential of SMEs is therefore imperative to nurture urban resilience and explore their transformative roles.

The webinar opened with the launch of the R-Cities publication A Point of View: Small and Medium Enterprises for Urban Resilience, presented by Nini Purwajati, R-Cities Senior Manager, Programs and Knowledge. She shared some of the key lessons learned from program cities including Bangkok, Da Nang, Jakarta, and Can Tho, and highlighted four approaches in illustrating cities' resiliency: understanding and prioritising a city’s critical and vulnerable SME sector; linking multiple resilience challenges in the cities; fostering cooperation for SME ecosystems; and incorporating tools and practices to solve resilience challenges.

Ahmad Giffari, Sub-Division Economic Affairs Head of Jakarta's Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda), spoke of the role of the Jakarta government in supporting SMEs through the establishment of a Jakarta entrepreneurs network, coordinated by different departments in the Jakarta office. The program aims to create business and job opportunities for SMEs, including support for business licensing, mentorship, networking and funding opportunities in collaboration with the private sector. He emphasized the critical role of local governments in facilitating a dynamic ecosystem which nurtures home-ground innovation. Therefore, aligning all collaborations from different departments is crucial so there is diversity and inclusivity in the entrepreneur landscape.  

Asih Radhianita, Program Officer, Climate Change and Urban Resilience, Kota Kita Foundation, shared her experience in managing and assisting citizens and SMEs in Kalibaru, a coastal community in North Jakarta, where the green mussel farming industry is the main contributor to the economic livelihoods of the people. Shell waste has long posed an environmental challenge to the city, but as a natural product it allows for a more sustainable approach to design solutions. In collaboration with Bappeda Jakarta, the Kota Kita Foundation established assessment, city planning and socialization to move forward to a more sustainable waste management solution, and to start thinking outside the box to turn green mussels into green opportunities.

Kyaw Thu, ADB Urban Development Specialist, spoke of the ADB plan to finance the Baguio Resilient City Tourism Project (BRCPT), under the Philippines' Department of Tourism. The BRCPT aims to enhance urban infrastructure and services to be climate resilient, as well as improving tourism worker productivity. In addition to climate, health and safety protocols, he also emphasized the importance of digital skills enhancement and business continuity planning to prepare for all emergencies.

Venkatachalam Anbumozhi, ERIA's Director of Research Strategy and Innovation, highlighted the regional outlook and current state of city resilience across ASEAN. Progress includes the establishment of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, consisting of 26 ASEAN pilot cities which are driving technology as an enabler to build smart and sustainable urban development. He said enhancing the readiness of ASEAN smart cities is crucial if the region wants to utilise digital technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Categorizing and supporting green entrepreneurs is also important to support the region’s efforts to achieve sustainable and resilient economic growth. To empower more SMEs for urban resilience, he said the need for a spill over and knowledge sharing from first tier cities to second and third tier cities is vital.

The discussion was moderated by Lauren Sorkin, R-Cities Executive Director. During the Q&A session, panellists and participants discussed how to minimize the trade-off of risks which local SMEs have when they face economic shocks, and ways to link capacity and collaboration within local governments, the private sector and enterprises.

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