Local Start-Up Community Meets Regulators to Discuss Way Forward on How to Jointly Promote Innovative Entrepreneurship in Lao PDR

The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), in close cooperation with the Trade Development Facilitation (TDF II) Project and the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) Project of the Lao – German Development Cooperation, organized a one-day Public-Private Consultative Meeting on Regulators & Innovative Entrepreneurship in Lao PDR at Crowne Plaza Vientiane on 26 September 2018.

Structured into 3 successive and interrelated panel discussions on (1) Current Start-up Ecosystem and Innovative Entrepreneurship in Lao PDR: Opportunities and Challenges, (2) Regional Good Practice on Promoting Innovative Entrepreneurship and (3) Future Policy Direction for Promoting Innovative Entrepreneurship and Start-ups in Lao PDR, the aim of this event is to create awareness about the potentials of entrepreneurship in Laos and the need for all stakeholders to work together in promoting and advancing the Lao start-up ecosystem. More than 80 delegates, encompassing high-level leaders from the Prime Minister’s Office and various relevant ministries, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lao ICT Commerce Association and a number of representatives from local SMEs and start-ups joined the event and had the opportunity to interact with esteemed speakers from the region as well as from the Lao public and private sector.

Opening remarks were given by H.E. Prof. Dr. Boviengkham Vongdara, Minister of Science and Technology, H.E. Dr. Thansamay Kommasith, Minister of Post and Telecommunications and Mr. Daovone Phachanthavong, Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Following this, the distinguished speakers started out by sketching the current status quo in Lao PDR, highlighting the opportunities of digital economic transformation, but also deliberating the diversity of obstacles that young entrepreneurs might face on their journeys, which include access to early stage finance (seed funding), access to mentoring and coaching as well as access to government support (e.g. provision of facilities or tax incentives). Regarding the latter, speakers from Thailand and Vietnam gave stimulating insights on how a government-led approach in their respective countries had been crucial for ecosystem builders and the entire start-up community. Therefore, a lesson learned from regional best practice models is certainly that people with talent and a drive for innovation need to be matched with an enabling environment in order for innovative entrepreneurship to thrive.

In closing the workshop, H.E. Prof. Dr. Boviengkham Vongdara acknowledged the hardship faced by the Lao start-up community. He also noted that Laos is now moving towards its next historical milestone. The country can neither avoid nor escape the industrial revolution 4.0 and should therefore prepare itself for future disruptions by producing enabling and conducive conditions for entrepreneurs. To achieve this task, the Lao public and private sector need to engage each other in dialogue platforms to foster mutual understanding and they need to work hand in hand to push Lao PDR into the global era of industry 4.0. The overall tenor of his closing remarks was rather positive and encouraging, as H.E. Prof. Dr. Boviengkham Vongdara introduced 6 main programs, including awareness raising, legislative review, human resource development, research and development, science services and international relations, to be implemented by the Ministry of Science and Technology until 2030 to create a strong foundation to help start-ups grow and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.

On a final note, the Minister assured that he will always stand by the side of the Lao entrepreneurs, supporting their businesses to blossom. Similarly, German Development Cooperation is very proud to support innovative entrepreneurship in Laos through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.