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A grant to help Southeast Asia’s businesses

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Noraeri, the breadwinner of her family, runs Chu Su Mo: a shop selling traditional clothes to her local community in the Baan Huay e-Khang village of Chiangmai, Thailand. For years, trade has been steady but now, with coronavirus restrictions in place, she’s having to find new ways to run her business—experimenting with online advertising to reach more customers.

Chu So Mo is one of the 64 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Southeast Asia that have been affected by the pandemic. Not only are these businesses integral to their communities--providing vital services and supporting jobs in the local economy—they’re also critical to the region’s economic growth. We want to help them get the right digital knowledge so they, like Noraeri, can adapt and ultimately rebuild.  

Through a $3.3 million grant from, we’re providing funding to help The Asia Foundation support its nonprofit partners as they extend digital skills training to 200,000 people in Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The grant will fund training in marginalized communities, including programs for women, underemployed young people, and those with disabilities.

With the backing of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Coordinating Committee on MSMEs (ACCMSME)---and in partnership with organizations like Thai Fund Foundation in Thailand and Pusat Pengembagan Sumberdaya Wanita in Indonesia—The Asia Foundation’s programs will give business owners and workers in all 10 ASEAN countries the skills and tools they need for the internet economy. The programs will also provide specific guidance on how to withstand and recover from the economic impact of COVID-19—for example, by helping businesses understand the delivery options available in their area so they can ship their products to their customers no matter where they are.  

This new grant builds on our 2018 commitment to train three million SME workers across Southeast Asia.  It’s also part of our global efforts to support small businesses and others affected by COVID-19. In Southeast Asia in particular, the importance of digital skills continues to grow as millions of people gain access to the internet each year and traditional businesses move online. With the support of ACCMSME, The Asia Foundation and its partners, we hope more MSMEs will be able to succeed, grow, and create opportunity for their local economies and communities.

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