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Although the National Capital Region remains the hub of economic activity, even at the height of the pandemic, government statistics show that only 18.6 percent of the establishments are located here. That leaves a majority scattered throughout the provinces in the Philippines.
What is telling is that more than a third of jobs are generated in the NCR, showing us that as far as size and scale are concerned, the NCR still brings in the numbers. Following NCR as the next most establishment-rich areas are its neighboring provinces, CALABARZON and Central Luzon, which still comprise highly urbanized cities and economically active towns.
That still leaves us with some 80 percent of establishments in the countryside that have the potential to help local economies and generate jobs for the local population. Needless to say, they play a vital role in sustaining local economies and providing livelihood opportunities to residents.
However, these MSMEs in the provinces often face unique challenges that hinder their growth and competitiveness, and if we are to all grow at the same pace, it is essential to provide support and assistance to help them thrive.
As someone who firmly believes in the potential of MSMEs to drive economic growth and provide prosperity for all, I am convinced that we need to grow the MSMEs in the provinces. One of the critical reasons is that they are often the only source of livelihood for rural communities. These businesses provide an essential means of income for farmers, fishermen and other rural workers who may not have access to formal employment.
During the initial provincial run of our mall-based entrepreneurship mentoring event 3M on Wheels in Baguio City last month, I found that MSMEs in that area are quite innovative. They are attuned to identifying new opportunities and focused on creating solutions to problems. With the right support, I can only imagine how they will perform at their full potential.
Moreover, many MSMEs in the provinces are engaged in agriculture and agribusiness, which are vital sectors for the Philippine economy. By supporting these businesses, we can promote sustainable agricultural practices, increase food security and generate income even in the far-flung areas.
However, despite their importance, the MSMEs in the provinces, especially those in the agriculture sector, often face significant challenges that hinder their growth, including limited access to financing, infrastructure and technology. The most significant challenge is perhaps the lack of access to financing. Most financial institutions are concentrated in urban areas, making it difficult for rural businesses to access capital. This lack of access to financing can stifle business growth and limit an MSME’s ability to invest in new technologies or expand operations. Also, making MSMEs part of the taxable economy by encouraging them to join the financial system can redound to so many benefits for the economy.
That is why starting this April, Go Negosyo’s free entrepreneurship mentoring program 3M on Wheels will reach out to more active and aspiring entrepreneurs in the provinces. We are set to hold 3M on Wheels in Pampanga this April 15 at the Marquee Mall in Angeles City, and then on to Cavite, Cebu, Bulacan, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo.
3M on Wheels builds on Go Negosyo’s Mentor Me on Wheels (MMOW), the highly successful on-ground, nationwide mentoring program which we started in 2018. It was inspired by the growing number of Filipinos turning to entrepreneurship to lift themselves out of poverty. As MMOW, the program has successfully mentored more than 10,000 entrepreneurs across the Philippines. Since we resumed the mall-based mentoring event as 3M on Wheels last year, more than 5,000 active and aspiring entrepreneurs have benefited from the program.
By renaming it as 3M On Wheels – the three M’s standing for Mentorship, Money and Market – we expand it to reflect not just mentorship, but also access to capital and markets. The expanded mentoring program encompasses the wider scope of entrepreneurship mentoring we now give to aspiring entrepreneurs. We felt that as we continue our mission of giving MSMEs access to business opportunities, we must expand it to the wider framework of money, market and mentorship – completing the three M’s that we believe are essential in growing small businesses.
During the event, the active and aspiring entrepreneurs receive one-on-one coaching from veteran entrepreneurs and successful business executives from different industries. Finance service providers, meanwhile, introduce entrepreneurs to facilities for small-business lending, while specialists in different marketing channels are on hand to introduce solutions that cover everything from establishing physical stores and digital platforms, to logistics solutions and digital payment platforms. Participants can also inquire at booths from potential franchise or business opportunities.
And to assist the entrepreneurs in their regulatory affairs, government agencies will be on hand to answer questions on documentation, certifications and applications.
Thanks to the successful businessmen and entrepreneurs who generously give of their time and knowledge, and to the finance institutions and enterprise solutions providers who have been with us through the years, we were able to scale our mentoring into a nationwide program, and now expand its scope.