With this week's kickoff of the 2016 China “Business 20” (B20) proceedings in Beijing, this is an opportune time to reflect on some of the key accomplishments of the 2015 Turkey B20. As many readers of this blog know, the B20 is the premier dialogue platform of the business community with the G20 policymakers representing the most important economies of the world, and it is influential in identifying and supporting policies that are crucial for overall economic development. I believe that taking stock of the past enables us to learn from both successes and failures, and helps sustain the momentum on what worked and generated the desired impact.
Looking back at my involvement as Chair of the B20 Steering Committee, what strikes me as a major achievement is the amplification of the voice of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). I believe that, if we want our economies to have healthy and inclusive growths, this must remain as a key priority for the upcoming B20 in China.
Participants in the Turkish G20/B20 process shared the assessment that SMEs’ potential was not being fully realized. SMEs account for about two-thirds of all private-sector jobs globally and about 80 percent of net job growth. They are the engine for equitable growth and poverty alleviation. And they are the backbone of the middle class and of social stability. Yet they suffer disproportionately from limited access to markets, finance, talent, skills and innovation. In addition, regulations also often put them at a disadvantage. Until recently, SMEs had lacked an organization that would champion their cause.
With these major issues in mind, and with strong deliberations of the B20 Leadership and support from the G20 Finance Ministers, last year TOBB and the ICC officially founded the World SME Forum (WSF), with the mission to help improve the overall growth and impact of SMEs globally, by effectively tackling the key challenges they face. WSF aims to provide SMEs with effective representation and to advance the recognition of the role of SMEs in the global economy by partnering with international financial institutions (IFIs) and development agencies. WSF has membership from associations and chambers working in the SME space from all over the world.
WSF is ready to represent SME interests with regional and global bodies, and to advocate for better rules and regulations among standard-setters.
As I am on my way to Beijing, I cannot help but think that this is indeed a major achievement, which will give the SME development agenda a much better chance at succeeding. WSF can be a “bridge” across B20 presidencies, so that we can ensure continuity in the crucial SME agenda. WSF can help avoid any loss of momentum on the implementation of the recommendations we develop during each cycle.
Even better, after B20 China officially decided to continue the SME Development Taskforce, which was started for the first time by B20 Turkey, they invited WSF to be a Business Network Partner for the Taskforce. WSF will therefore be coordinating the network and will help drive the ideas that emerge from the Taskforce discussions into implementation.
I am thrilled that this year’s SME Development Taskforce will be chaired by Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba.com — one of the world's most prominent business icons, who managed to turn his startup SME into the company that did the largest IPO in a little more than a decade.
So we are in for exciting times, where we can bring to the table continuity and a focus on implementation and inspirational leadership. WSF is ready for the challenge, as it has already had major achievements during the first few months since its creation:
- The World Bank Group (WBG), the UN International Trade Center (ITC) and the OECD have already joined us as institutional partners, and discussions are ongoing with potential new member organizations and corporate supporters. Their support and inputs will be crucial for the work ahead of us.
- We have already started discussions with our partners in order to put together a fact-based, constructive framework to evaluate the potential impact of the latest financial regulations and decisions by global standard-setters and sovereign regulators on the development and growth of SMEs. We will initiate a study on the most relevant constraints generated by cross-border trade regulations on the SMEs’ export potential.
- We will soon be starting our advisory work on certification and standards, to enable SMEs to more effectively link to national and global value chains (GVC); on Credit Reporting, Scoring and Ratings; and on Inclusive Innovation. We will pilot our programs in selected countries before rolling them out more broadly.
- Finally, as we believe that the future will be digital, we are putting a great deal of effort in creating what we call e-WSF, which will be the World SME Forum’s online platform. It aims to become a digital aggregator and a "one-stop shop" for SMEs to increase their access to skills, training, knowledge, innovation, networks, expertise and information.
In collaboration with our founding members (ICC and TOBB), our institutional partners (the World Bank Group, OECD and ITC) and with the members of the B20 SME Development Taskforce, we will keep on amplifying the voice of SMEs, supporting them in creating the jobs and innovations that are so sorely needed by all of the world's economies. We will do our best to rise to the challenge of global SME advancement. The impact we can achieve together can be a game-changer.