From May 19-20 2021 (UTC-8), the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada) hosted the APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership Capstone Conference, a two-day virtual symposium that highlighted the Partnership’s achievements and policy solutions for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region.
The Capstone Conference featured four panel discussions over the course of two days. These panels featured a variety of speakers from the Partnership’s government and business partners in Canada, Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, Viet Nam, and across the APEC region. Each discussion tackled specific topics, including policies to support MSMEs during the COVID-19 pandemic, gendered experiences of entrepreneurship, and MSMEs' digital transformation.
The conference began with opening remarks from Stewart Beck, the President and CEO of APF Canada, and Assistant Deputy Minister (Asia Pacific) Paul Thoppil, from Global Affairs Canada. Assistant Deputy Minister Thoppil read welcoming remarks from the Honourable Mary Ng, P.C., M.P., Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.
Panel 1: Priorities in Inclusive Post-Pandemic Growth
The opening panel on Day 1 focused on priorities in ensuring inclusive post-pandemic growth for MSMEs and underserved entrepreneurs, including women and youth. The discussion topics considered pressing challenges for MSMEs, such as access to finance and new markets. Featured speakers included the Partnership’s key implementation stakeholders in Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam, namely the Da Nang Institute for Socio-Economic Development, KUNAN Peru, the Innovation Factory in Indonesia, and Map the Philippines.
Panel 2: Gender and Entrepreneurship: Reflections from Mentorship Experiences
The second panel on Day 1 focused on the specific challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, and how gender defines entrepreneurs’ experiences and MSME success in the APEC region. This panel featured speakers from the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, APF Canada’s implementation partner for a dedicated mentorship program for women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam. Speakers included mentees from the program, as well as representatives from the Cherie Blair Foundation and Oxfam Canada.
Panel 3: Policies for Inclusive Growth Across the APEC Region
As the opening session for Day 2 of the conference, this panel discussion featured speakers from the private sector, who discussed the policies and programs required to ensure MSME survival during the pandemic and inclusive growth moving forward. The panel included business leaders and members from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, who gave perspectives and best practises from APEC and Canadian contexts.
Panel 4: Lessons from the Field: Research and Collaboration with MSMEs
To complement the high-level policy discussions throughout the conference, the second panel on Day 2 focused on the on-the-ground research and collaborations that are crucial toward gaining a first-hand understanding of MSMEs’ needs and experiences. This panel featured researchers from the Partnership’s research activities in Peru and the Philippines, and focused on experiences in research and program implementation.
To conclude the conference, a closing keynote address was delivered by the Chair of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group, Ms. Norlela Suhailee. Closing remarks were then given by Stewart Beck, President & CEO of APF Canada.
As phase one of the Partnership comes to an end, we would like to once again thank all of our speakers, attendees and stakeholders for their expertise and support of the Partnership, as well as the Government of Canada for funding this project. To learn more about the resources developed during the capstone year of the Partnership please explore the links below.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.