The Asian Development Bank and the Australian Government jointly launched the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) in 2015. MBI catalyzes private sector development in emerging ASEAN markets, focusing on Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam. The program aims to improve the business-enabling environment in these four emerging ASEAN markets. It has three areas of focus:
- Business Advocacy: MBI facilitates improved public–private dialogue during formulation and implementation of government business regulations and support programs. MBI partners with business associations and groups that represent the interests of young entrepreneurs, with a focus on women entrepreneurs.
- Alternative Financing: MBI supports the expansion of access to financial services for start-ups and small- and medium- size enterprises (SMEs) by introducing these businesses to alternative financial products and services. This includes financial technology (FinTech) and angel investing.
MBI fosters development of the innovation ecosystem by supporting
business incubation and technology commercialization. Policy lessons
are extracted from piloting innovative business models in
partnership with start-up companies.
In Viet Nam, MBI focuses on start-ups and SME support policies, as well as direct engagement with business associations, entrepreneurs, and investors.
At the national level, MBI supported the Ministry of Planning and Investment on a new SME Support Law, approved in June 2017. MBI focused its recommendations to support women-led and owned SMEs, business incubation services and technology transfer, and venture capital.
At the city level, MBI worked with the local governments of Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang to design and implement innovative business support programs for start-ups and SMEs. MBI now partners with these entities to assist in the implementation of other initiatives.
The Fintech Challenge Vietnam, co-organized with the State Bank of Vietnam, was launched in 2018 and aims to provide growth and investment opportunities for local Vietnamese entrepreneurs by promoting innovation in FinTech. Last year, the program attracted over 140 FinTech companies (including 45 Vietnamese companies and 96 foreign companies) from 27 countries. 7 finalists piloted their solutions with bank partners including a credit scoring application (Kiu) that has since reached more than 25,000 SMEs. MBI is running the program again in 2019, and the call for applications just ended.