Lao chamber enhancing sustainable market links for SMEs

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) is expected to strengthen small and medium enterprise (SME) competitiveness through the implementation of green business practices under a 24-month coaching programme.

The programme will be conducted with the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC), a multilateral agency which has a joint mandate from the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The ITC contributes to meeting 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals and also promotes the transitioning of SMEs into the green economy through the setup of T4SD Hubs around the globe.

This newly-introduced T4SD programme is set to enable SMEs in Laos to gain knowledge and skills to implement resource efficiency practices and comply with voluntary sustainability standards.

In addition, it is hoped this will help facilitate access to green finance in international markets and improve LNCCI services, which will support SME clients to comply with voluntary sustainability standards and position products in global markets.

In his keynote address at the launch on Tuesday, LNCCI President, Mr Oudet Souvannavong, said the programme would allow Laos’ SMEs to strengthen their capacity in competitiveness and meet the requisite international standards.

“Regarding this project, we are not only training individuals to become more competitive in global markets, but they will also be coached for product positioning in order to attract international buyers,” he said.

Mr Oudet said he appreciated the grant assistance from the government of Sweden for Laos’ business coaching programme, especially for SMEs owned by women.

At the same event, Swedish Ambassador to Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, Mr Staffan Herrström, said he believed that sustainable development would play a significant role in poverty eradication.

“The encouragement and promotion of women-owned SMEs, or any kind of business, will strengthen the role of sustainable development and pave ways for poverty eradication and graduation from Least Developed Country status,” he added.

The LNCCI will receive ITC support to incorporate the services within its portfolio, including voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) and positioning of products in international markets.

VSS, the first module, aims to equip SMEs in Laos with tools to identify relevant standards required by international buyers, identify gaps in compliance with standards, implement practices to address the gaps, and ultimately to obtain certificates of compliance.

The second module aims to equip Lao SMEs with a methodology on how to market and position products in international markets.

The VSS module is planned to be rolled out in 2019, while the module on the positioning of products will follow in 2020.

In 2020, SMEs that successfully finish the coaching with ITC and LNCCI will have the opportunity to connect with international buyers through B2B events.

The programme aims to embed the T4SD Hubs and its contents into LNCCI’s services, which will act as a local multiplier to SMEs in Laos, benefiting from methodologies and tools developed by ITC.

ITC will also train staff at LNCCI on the methodologies, delivery of the coaching programmes as well as on the ITC T4SD tools such as the Sustainability Map (www.sustainabilitymap.org).

LNCCI will be building capacity to develop a viable business model for offering technical assistance to support SMEs in Laos to help them transition into green production practices.

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