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Online hub for MSME recovery ready to serve

/ 05:01 AM February 12, 2021

Citi Foundation together with its partner Bayan Academy launched recently the Creativity and Innovation Hub, in a bid to contribute to the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

This initiative repurposes the existing Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC), through which Citi and Bayan Academy, a development organization, have helped boost 6,700 enterprises over the last 10 years. The new CMDC hub, intended to help businesses affected by the crisis to rebuild, will offer assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and startups seeking growth. Business support, networking and consultation, and a coworking space are among the services offered by the program. “The hub will focus on supporting startups and MSMEs, who play a significant role in economic growth through job creation and wealth creation in communities where they operate,” said Aftab Ahmed, Citi country officer for the Philippines, at the launch, which was held via Zoom. Ahmed emphasized the need for assistance for businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines, where 99.5 percent of all enterprises are MSMEs, according to government data.

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“Our goal is to help them improve their business proposition and strengthen their resiliency, particularly important as we start moving toward normalization,” Ahmed adds.

Citi and Bayan Academy hope to help 500 MSMEs, including past CMDC graduates affected by the crisis and other businesses looking for guidance, through three-day resiliency and rebuilding workshops online. These will run 20 times between February and October this year.

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The program will also include incubation and business workshop webinars for 400 startups whose revenues do not exceed 2 million pesos, and who have been operating for less than two years.

Growth opportunities

Philip Felipe, executive director at Bayan Academy, hopes the initiative, by encouraging the generation and design of new business ideas, and promoting evidence-based business concepts, will aid in economic recovery.

“The services to be offered are tailor-made to meet the needs of both existing businesses and startup enterprises as they pursue growth opportunities in the evolving new normal environment,” he said.

Felipe also believes that especially empowering women-based grassroots entrepreneurs will lead to improved lives, social inclusion and economic participation.

Aside from the activities for MSMEs and startups, the program will incubate 30 startups through focused training, mentoring periods and pitching sessions. These startups will be chosen based on social and economic impact, sustainability and innovation, among other qualifications. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Innovation Rafaelita Aldaba commended the initiative at the Zoom conference.

Aldaba noted that this is in line with DTI’s industrial policy, the Philippine Industrial Innovation Industrial Strategy, which aims to propel jobs, investments, and shared prosperity across the country.

“The need for our enterprises to become more creative, innovative and resilient is critical for the country’s economic recovery and sustained growth,” Aldaba said.

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She also pointed out that Filipinos have been responding to the pandemic by innovating.

“With new technologies like AI and big data, startups have been addressing COVID-19 issues and providing support to government through contact tracing, personal and community health monitoring apps, social distancing chatbots and online marketplaces,” she explained, saying that this is why startups would benefit from such support. “With strong government, industry and academia collaboration, we will be able to support the growth of more startups and the creation of a robust startup ecosystem in the Philippines,” Aldaba added. —Contributed

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TAGS: Bayan Academy, Citi Foundation, Creativity and Innovation Hub
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