Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Advertising Subscribe Reuse & Permissions
Hill Times Events Hill Times Books Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now

Expanding role of micro, small, and medium enterprises provide opportunities for sustainable development

By Gisèle Yasmeen, Vilupti Lok Barrineau      

'With our established expertise in technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and green development, Canada has an opportunity to strengthen MSME competitiveness and participation in cross-border production and trade in the digital economy.'

APEC Ministerial Meeting Plenary Opening Session in 2013. A four-year project, the APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership is a 'demonstration of Canada's renewed investment' in the MSME space, designed to 'build and grow' the MSME community in the region, write Vilupti Lok Barrineau and Gisèle Yasmeen.
U.S. State Department photo by William Ng

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is home to 40 per cent of the world’s population, 50 per cent of global trade, and 60 per cent of global GDP. Over the last quarter century, APEC has shaped and transformed the global economy and supported half a billion people in their rise out of poverty.

Few Canadians know much about APEC, even though Canada was one of its founding members in 1989. The organization, which ultimately strives for regional economic integration, represents enormous opportunities for Canadian businesses as a driver of innovation and sustainable growth across the 21 interconnected member economies, and as a vehicle to promote Canada’s strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

As multilateral organizations go, however, Canada has not been heavily invested in APEC. But that is now changing.

This week’s APEC Ministerial Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will focus on micro, small, and medium enterprises, or MSMEs, in both the global north and south. MSMEs are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region, where some 110 million MSMEs–many of them led by women and youth–are poised to change the current economic growth trajectory. Across the region, including in Canada, MSMEs figure as the backbones of the economy, employing a majority of the population and accounting for a significant proportion of GDP.

One of the most vibrant sectors for MSMEs today is food and agriculture. Agri-food MSMEs are crucial in both wealthy and low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in addressing food security, meeting growing demand for agricultural commodities and value-added foodstuffs, and in reducing poverty by generating income through strategies of inclusive growth.

Canada’s APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership project is a demonstration of Canada’s renewed investment in the MSME space. The four-year project is designed to build and grow the MSME community in the APEC region, increasing their market access, particularly those MSMEs owned by women and youth, and helping them alleviate poverty in the region.

Funded by Global Affairs Canada, and managed by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and the APEC Secretariat, the program is now nearing the end of its first year. This week, members of our team will be in Ho Chi Minh City to present research findings on agri-food MSMEs to APEC ministers.

In particular, agri-food MSMEs take on strategic importance as part of sustainable food value chains and sources of income. For example, 99.5 per cent of registered enterprises in the Philippines are MSMEs, and a similar figure holds true for Peru. The majority of these enterprises fall within the agri-food sector. These statistics do not even include the millions of informal enterprises that exist in LMICs, which often act as survival mechanisms for the poor.

Even countries like Canada have an informal economy, estimated to be worth $42.4 billion by Statistics Canada (2012). Women play key roles as both consumers and producers up and down the agri-food value chain, and youth around the world are taking an interest in the sector.

There are a number of policy issues surrounding agri-food MSMEs in the APEC region. For LMICs, increasing rural incomes through investments in value-added crops and improved productivity is a central concern, as is investing in simple post-harvest technologies to reduce significant waste in the food chain.

Reducing food waste can also help mitigate negative environmental impacts associated with food production and distribution. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that at least one third of all food–approximately 1.3 billion tonnes annually–is wasted before reaching consumers. For certain crops, such as fruits and vegetables, the spoilage rate is as high as 45 per cent. Investments in infrastructure, refrigeration, and storage (with associated technical support) can go a long way in making more food available, and stimulating the creation of MSMEs along the value chain.

From a more “downstream” value-added perspective, urbanization and the growth of the middle-classes in the APEC region–including in LMICs–offers incredible domestic and export opportunities due to exponential growth in food-related consumption. Countries like Vietnam, for instance, are experiencing ‘food booms.’

The Vietnamese are now spending three times as much money on food as they did in 2004. Per capita expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages is expected to grow at seven per cent per annum, with the food and beverage sector expected to achieve an average annual growth rate of 18 per cent. Nevertheless, 85 per cent of Vietnamese consumers purchase food at traditional retail channels, such as wet markets and roadside shops, many of which operate informally.

We also found that consumers across the APEC region are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and a large majority of young consumers (60 per cent in Peru, for instance) would happily embrace stores and products that claim to be environmentally friendly, providing opportunities for green business.

Our challenge now is to leverage our own knowledge and know-how to float all boats on the rising tide of MSME empowerment. As an APEC partner that supports inclusive and sustainable growth and development, it is critical that we recognize the importance of informal enterprises, particularly in LMIC economies, and provide support to transition these MSMEs to more formalized, scalable, and export-ready structures without compromising the livelihoods of the poor.

With our established expertise in technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and green development, Canada has an opportunity to strengthen MSME competitiveness and participation in cross-border production and trade in the digital economy.

It is an opportunity that will benefit our partners in the region, and our businesses at home. And it is our opportunity to lose.

Vilupti Lok Barrineau is Vice-President, Operations at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada; Gisèle Yasmeen is Senior Fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research, and a consultant to APF Canada


The Hill Times 

More in News

Stalled Senate harassment policy review revived

The Senate is buckling down on its review of its harassment policy as the #MeToo movement sweeps through the halls of Parliament—though the head of the group in charge of the overhaul says the timing…

Singh will have to showcase ‘political guts,’ clear progressive message to connect with voters

New leader Jagmeet Singh will have to live up to his promise to boldly dig deeper into social democratic values or he'll risk alienating NDP grassroots as the party tries to create distance from the Liberal…

Military activities, veterans’ support, Phoenix fix big-ticket items in $4B new spending ask

News|By Emily Haws
The Department of National Defence and other departments providing services to active and retired members of the Armed Forces are taking up a sizeable chunk of the $4-billion in extra spending the Liberals have put…

Texting, sit-downs, and lots of waiting in hotel rooms: the ins and outs of NAFTA lobbying

News|By Shruti Shekar
Dozens of industry groups are dispatching executives to every round of the NAFTA renegotiation, and using texts, emails, and phone calls to try to talk to Canada's negotiating leads about what is being discussed with…

Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould justified in speaking out after controversial Stanley verdict, marked a turning point for Canada, say MPs

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould were right to speak out after the verdict in the Gerald Stanley trial, say Liberal and NDP Parliamentarians, who believe the government and Parliament have to…

What happens if an MP’s found guilty of sexual harassment? No one’s saying

News|By Abbas Rana
All the federal political parties say they take sexual harassment “seriously,” but none will say what disciplinary action they would take against an MP found guilty of it. “We take sexual harassment allegations very seriously,…

Feds’ sweeping, new environmental assessment bill keeps power in ministers’ hands, say observers

The government’s new Impact Assessment Act includes hundreds of pages detailing changes to the environmental assessment process in Canada, but keeps ultimate power over approving natural resource projects in the hands of the federal environment…

NDP reviewing past, present harassment processes amid Stoffer, Weir allegations

The NDP isn’t currently investigating the specific harassment allegations against former NDP MP Peter Stoffer, but it says it's looking into how such complaints were, are now and will be handled, something strategist Robin Sears…

Patrick Brown gaining support since re-emerging to challenge sexual harassment allegations, says adviser, though Conservative MPs largely quiet

Patrick Brown, who in a dramatic move re-entered the Ontario leadership late Friday afternoon, is receiving strong support from all corners of the political world since publicly re-emerging to challenge the sexual harassment allegations that…


We’re offering 15% off a year-long subscription to the hill times online content.