A Breakfast for Champions – Lao Businesses Enjoying a Meet & Greet with H.E. Bouasone Buphavanh, H.E. Somchit Inthamith and LNCCI Business Leaders to Discuss Lao Future Economic Outlook

The SME Service Center (SSC) under the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), in close cooperation with the National Institute for Economic Research (NIER), the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC) and the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) Project of the German Development Cooperation, successfully organized the first ever SSC Breakfast Talk on October 30th 2018.

The Breakfast Talk – a series of quarterly information and business networking events – is a new SSC signature service. Members and non-members alike can come for a meet-and-greet in the morning, while listening to industry experts sharing their recommendations, opinions, success and failure stories, as well as relevant updates on economic developments in Laos. Bringing together an unconventional and mutually enriching mix of people, including high-ranking government representatives, prominent industry stakeholders, members of the LNCCI and Lao SME community, the aim of these networking breakfasts is to help Lao companies explore new ideas and synergies, to build productive professional relationships and to generate business opportunities.

As for the kick-off event, more than 80 reputable Lao business owners, government officials and representatives of development cooperation took the occasion to head to Crowne Plaza Hotel on early Tuesday morning to join the networking breakfast held under the guiding theme: Lao Future Economic Outlook – What’s in there for Startups and SMEs? While learning about the current as well as future economic trends and key issues they should be aware of when doing business in Lao PDR, Lao entrepreneurs and SMEs also got the chance to directly address their individual questions to selected VIPs throughout the event.

Opening remarks were given by Daovone Phachanthavong, Vice President of LNCCI, and H.E. Jens Peter Luetkenherm, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following this, H.E. Bouasone Buphavanh, President of the Lao National Institute for Economic Research (NIER), gave his keynote address, sketching out his macro-economic status analysis for Lao PDR and suggesting to take action on issues such as the Lao fiscal deficit, the streamlining of investment approval processes, cross-border trade facilitation and the promotion of innovative, resource-efficient, environmentally friendly digital businesses.   

Regarding the latter, restructuring the Lao economy will be key. According to Mr. Bouasone Buphavanh, Laos is currently an “analogue economy”, in which Lao companies are truly struggling to compete. They should strive to become more digitalized.

Against the background of this “food for thought”, the event continued in a panel discussion format to trigger a fruitful exchange of viewpoints between the moderator, Mr. Phongsavanh Phomkong, Head of IFC Office, the other designated honorable guest speakers, H.E. Somchit Inthamith, Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce, and Oudet Souvannavong, President of LNCCI, and the distinguished business community present at the SSC Breakfast Talk. Hot topics have been raised and debated by both the panel and audience side, including the need for market-driven human resource development to better enable and initiate the transition to a digital economy, land allocation and strategies to make the Laos-China Railway Project as beneficial as possible for the socio-economic development of Lao communities. 

In closing the workshop, the panel acknowledged the hardship faced by the Lao business community, but simultaneously also provided a rather positive outlook. Mr. Oudet Souvannavong noted that the LNCCI set up the SME Service Center in Vientiane Capital to serve SMEs. There are more SSCs to be opened in other provinces, such as Luang Prabang or Champasack to also reach those in the provinces. Both Mr. Bouasone Buphavanh and Mr. Somchit Inthamith noted that the SSC Breakfast Talk, being a real business talk, is a great starting point to dive into the aforementioned mid- and long-term bottlenecks of the Lao economy more deeply. The Lao public and private sector need to constantly engage each other in dialogue platforms to foster mutual understanding. They need to work hand in hand to create a more conducive environment for Lao entrepreneurs and SMEs alike, thus preparing the Lao PDR for future developments.

German Development Cooperation is very proud to support private sector development and innovative entrepreneurship in Laos through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and its Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) Project.