Laos, South Korea mull ways to improve Lao start-ups

Xaysomphet Norasingh (third left) and Pilseong Kim (third right) attend a workshop on Korea’s Knowledge Sharing Programme. - VT

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Start-up businesses in Laos will be improved to enhance their competitiveness in overseas markets through a Knowledge Sharing Programme supervised by South Korea.

A workshop on the Knowledge Sharing Programe, themed “Investing in New Exporters through Startups Promotion in Laos” took place online on Sept 26.

Participants included the Director General of the Trade Promotion Department, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Xaysomphet Norasingh; Deputy Director General of the Technology Promotion and Transfer Centre, Ministry of Technology and Communication, Yoth Saythongdeth; Director General of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) Vientiane and Chairman of Korean Business Association, Pilseong Kim; officials from related ministries and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and experts from the Hyundai Research Institute.

The event reviewed policy recommendations and cooperative strategy, along with discussions of possible subsequent programmes under further cooperation between Laos and South Korea.

Workshop participants learnt that the current startup support system in Laos is vulnerable to incubating born-global startups in the pursuit of overseas markets, despite the need to encourage the production of more goods for export because of the limited domestic market.

Although some startup incubation organisations are in operation, the lack of capacity in build-up programmes related to research and development and exports are said to be the main issue and should be improved to enhance the competitiveness of Lao startups.

Existing state trading enterprises do not have the ability to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in their efforts to gain access to overseas markets.

Utilising South Korea’s past experience to assign a role to a state-owned company, Koryo Trading, to help brand South Korean SME products and penetrate overseas markets in the export-driven economic development era, it was suggested to make use of the trade-specialised state enterprise to boost Lao SME exports.

In addition, improvements in trade statistics analysis is required. Participants agreed that the aggregated trade statistics of Laos are well-compiled and made public monthly through the Lao Trade Portal and the media, but the data is not customised, having less practical use for both public and private entities.

They took note of South Korea’s case to operate a trade statistics system for various decision makers to show detailed trade figures classified by HS code, exporting and importing country, exporter’s region, and the number of South Korean trading companies, concluding that trade statistics analysis infrastructure and related human capacity build-up is needed.

Xaysomphet said a one-stop ecosystem that provides a total solution to nurture Lao startups is vital.

His idea is to have a one-roof startup incubation centre to function as a facilitator in all aspects including innovative research and development, overseas marketing, and trade.

“We hope to make plans for realistic projects and to initiate them in the near future,” he added.

Pilseong Kim brought up some ideas to operate the following KSP programmes to work with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other relevant bodies in Laos.

“A pilot project to conduct trade capacity building programmes for entrepreneurs outside Vientiane can be considered as a first step,” he said.

The Knowledge Sharing Programme is funded by the Ministry of Economy and Finance of South Korea and coordinated by Kotra to share Korea’s development experience and knowledge with partner countries for institutional and capacity building.

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