5. SME and entrepreneurship support programmes in Viet Nam

Based on data from the World Bank Enterprise Survey, about one-quarter of Vietnamese SMEs consider access to finance the main obstacle to running their business, while about half of them report having a loan or a credit line from a financial institution (see also chapter 3). Other national sources report that only about 30% of SMEs have access to bank credit (Binh, 2019[1]) and that up to 38% of SMEs are credit-rationed mostly because of lack of adequate collaterals (CIEM et al., 2016[2]). The government has taken two main steps to improve the access of domestic SMEs to bank credit. First, credit institutions are encouraged to lend to SMEs through tailored loan products at preferential rates. Second, the government has set up the SME Development Fund (SMEDF) and the Credit Guarantee Fund (CGF). These two instruments are presented and assessed in this section.

The SMEDF was established under Prime Minister Decision No. 601/QD-TTg dated 17 April 2013, with an initial capitalisation of VND 2 trillion from the state budget, and became operational in April 2016. The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) is responsible for its implementation.

Funding to SMEs from the SMEDF is largely channelled through partnering banks. The SMEDF has authorised the Viet Nam Development Bank (VDB), a public development bank, and four partner commercial banks to deliver the loans,1 with the Fund providing 80% of the loan amount (not to exceed VND 30 billion per project), and the company required to contribute at least 20% of the project cost in equity. The SMEDF loan can have a maturity of up to 7-years at interest rates capped below the market rates (e.g. 5% for short-term loans and 7% for medium and long-term loans, rather than the market rates of 8% to 10%). In this respect, there is a danger that the capped interest rates might discourage partnering commercial banks from exercising the SMEDF loan due to the higher-than-average cost of processing small business loans and, at the same time, lower-than-average margins on the SMEDF-backed loans. By the same token, although cost-sharing is a common requirement of subsidised credit programmes, the 20% matching-fund requirement could hinder the participation of cash-constrained small enterprises.

A further limitation of the SMEDF is that loans can only be applied to asset-based projects – that is to say, the Fund cannot be used to finance working capital – and that the lending bank is allowed to request hard collateral for up to 100% of the loan amount. While this is lower than the standard collateral requirement of commercial banks, which can be as high as 150%, many small businesses will still find it difficult to comply, unless the SMEDF loan is further backed by a government guarantee.

The selection criteria of the SMEDF include innovativeness (including new business models), employment creation, environmental savings, and evidence of good administrative/management practices. Partnering banks make their loan appraisal based on guidelines issued by the SMEDF, but they still must secure approval from the Fund for each loan, which makes the overall selection process quite cumbersome.

The SMEDF loan offers a simplified application process that can be submitted online at one of the partnering banks. Furthermore, the SMEDF operates a call centre to help SMEs complete the loan application form and, through an informal network of service providers, advise SMEs on how to develop a loan proposal. In 2017-2018, 1 600 SMEs availed of this service, although only very few of them applied for funding from the SMEDF.

Since its creation the SMEDF has not experienced high demand. By 2019, the Fund had supported only 14 SME loans for a total of VND 106.4 billion.2 Major issues have been low awareness of the Fund among SMEs and, as noted earlier, cumbersome approval procedures and strict eligibility requirements.

Demand for the SMEDF is likely to be further affected by the implementation of the SME Support Law (Government Decree 39/2019/ND-CP of 10 May 2019), which restricts the SMEDF support to “innovative start-ups” and “SMEs participating in business clusters and value chains”. Prior to the SME Support Law, the SMEDF could finance loans from a broader range of SMEs, including co-operatives and household businesses3, which are no longer in line with the mandated priorities of the Fund. The implementing decree of the SME Support Law also authorises the SMEDF to engage in direct lending. In this case, the maximum loan size should not exceed 80% of the total investment capital of the financed project, up to a ceiling of VND 1 billion, while the interest rate should be no higher than 80% of the lowest interest rate available from commercial banks. 

Going forward, the SMEDF should clearly strive to increase its number of users, since the operating costs of managing a Fund that has only served 14 companies in four years is certainly higher than its economic and social benefits. In due course, it will also be important to produce data on the performance of the Fund, including the number of applicant SMEs (by sector of activity), the average loan size, the percentage of applications rejected (including, if possible, the reasons of rejection) and the rate and volume of loan defaults.

Credit guarantees are one of the most common government policies to support SMEs’ access to financing (OECD, 2013[3]). In Viet Nam, Decree No. 193/2001/QD-TTg provided for the creation of a network of credit guarantee funds to provide SMEs with extra security in order to meet the collateral requirements for bank financing. The Credit Guarantee Funds (CGFs) are operated through two channels: 1) the VDB with funding from the state budget; and 2) Local Guarantee Funds (LGFs) that are operated by local and city governments with funding from local budgets. Credit guarantees have been in place at the local level since 2001 and at the central level since 2009. Since 2009 the VDB is entrusted with overseeing both the central fund and the local funds. The total charter capital of Viet Nam’s credit guarantee funds is estimated at VND 1.5 trillion.

Viet Nam’s credit guarantee funds are not allowed to leverage the volume of credit guarantees beyond three times their total charter capital (up to VND 4.5 trillion in loan volume).4 However, evidence from other countries points to a leverage rate more often in the range of 5-7 times its capitalisation (European Commission, 2006), suggesting that there could be room for rising the leverage ratio to expand SME credit in Viet Nam.

Usage of the CGF has also been low; from 2001 to mid-2017, only 2 000 SME loans were backed by guarantees. In 2017, the total value of guaranteed loans was equivalent to 0.12% of total outstanding SME loans and to 0.03% of GDP, the last figure being much lower than in Thailand (over 1% of GDP) and Malaysia (1.5% of GDP) (NCIF, 2017, as cited in Dang and Chuc (2019[4])). The scale of the LGFs is also very small, with only VND 250 billion in active status in mid-2019. One of the reasons behind the low use of credit guarantees in Viet Nam concerns the strict conditions for SMEs to receive a guarantee, especially in terms of mortgage assets. Another reason lies in the relatively high rate of non-performing loans: by the end of 2017, nearly 10% of the total amount of loans guaranteed by the CGFs was non-performing (Dang and Chuc, 2019, p. 9[4]).

Commercial banks in Viet Nam are also often reluctant to accept the government credit guarantees, particularly at the local level, due to funding constraints of the local guarantee entities (i.e. banks are not confident the guarantees will be available in case of loan defaults) (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]). Under Decision 58/2013/QD-TTG, all local guarantee funds were required to have at least VND 30 billion in charter capital, but since most are capitalised from local government budgets, few actually meet this requirement (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]).5

Finally, essential to an effective guarantee scheme, is the presence of well-trained staff (European Commission, 2006[6]), which is also a weakness in Viet Nam’s local funds (Dang and Chuc, 2019[4]). It can take up to three months for a guarantee approval, whereas well-functioning credit guarantee schemes can process requests within one or two weeks.

Some operational aspects of the Vietnamese CGF could also be tweaked. The fee for a CGF-backed loan guarantee is equivalent to 0.5% per year of the total loan plus interests, to be paid by the borrower, which is low compared to other similar international programmes. Furthermore, in Viet Nam, the guarantee covers up to 100% of the loan, which means that the CGF takes on the entire risk for default, whereas in most guarantee funds the coverage rate ranges between 50% and 80%, leaving the partnering bank to share part of the risk. A comparison with credit guarantee schemes in other countries indicates that Viet Nam is an outlier in these two important aspects (Table 5.1). Viet Nam would therefore be advised to reduce the coverage rate from 100% to 80% and to increase the guarantee fee to 1% or 2%, also taking into consideration other key features of well-designed credit guarantee schemes (see Box 5.1).

The good performance of a credit guarantee programme clearly depends on the rate of non-performing loans, but also on other socioeconomic considerations such as additionality and externalities, including jobs created by the portfolio of assisted SMEs and contributions to tax revenues, which are essential considerations in a cost-benefit analysis of the entire scheme (European Commission, 2006[6]). For example, the review of the Canadian Small Business Financing Programme (CSBFP) calculated the cost of programme administration and loan defaults over a nine-year period at CAD 986.7 million, compared to benefits of CAD 3.85 billion (Box 5.2). Performing a cost-benefit analysis of Viet Nam’s CGF might help allay the government’s aversion to losses from defaulting loans. The case of Ireland’s credit guarantee programme (Box 5.3) is also relevant for Viet Nam because it shows how an in-depth programme review can assist in detecting major bottlenecks in programme design and implementation and suggesting appropriate solutions.

Other developments to improve access to finance by Vietnamese SMEs are driven by international organisations lending to commercial banks for relending to SMEs. Notable, for example, is the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) long-term loan of USD 300 million to the Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam.6 Among other things, this loan should contribute to the development of a new digital product to reach underserved SMEs in rural areas. The development of Fintech could play an important role in easing current constraints in SME financing. The recent launch of Finaxar in Viet Nam, a subsidiary of Singapore Finaxar, goes in this direction, as it is expected to enable quick online access to short-term working capital upon payment of a small fee.7

Private equity finance has lagged behind in Viet Nam due to the government’s preference for traditional credit policies and the limited knowledge of equity finance among international donors (Klingler-Vidra, 2014[15]). Viet Nam’s venture capital market started in 2004 with the establishment of IDG Ventures Viet Nam, which since then has invested in about 40 companies from different industries. Other venture capital funds have followed suit, although many others still prefer operating in the country from Singapore due to the weak legal and regulatory environment for private equity and venture capital investments in Viet Nam (Dao, 2016[16]). For example, Viet Nam’s venture capital funds investing abroad need a special certificate, whose application and approval should take 14 days, but in practice can take up to 3-4 months. In addition, 6-12 months can lapse between the time of having an investment agreement and securing the adequate papers to process the capital transfer (Dao, 2016[16]).

In addition to refining the legal and regulatory framework for venture capital investments, additional policy measures are often required to incentivise private investors to make investments in high-risk start-ups and early-stage ventures. In many OECD countries, for example, governments have successfully introduced both front-end tax incentives (i.e. tax deductions on investments in seed and early-stage ventures) and back-end tax reliefs (i.e. favourable tax treatment of capital gains and losses on those investments) (OECD, 2013[17]). The government could consider establishing such tax incentive schemes (see Box 5.4 for an example from the United Kingdom), as they would align with the government’s overall strategy to become a start-up-nation with a stronger base in technology and innovation.

A number of countries encourage the development of specialised trading platforms to satisfy the demand of SMEs for equity finance (OECD, 2015[18]). While Viet Nam’s market capitalisation has grown significantly in recent years, it does not have yet such a platform. However, in 2009, the Ha Noi Stock Exchange – the second largest after the one in Ho-Chi-Minh City (HOSE) – established the Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM) which offers easier access to capital markets through lower listing and information disclosure requirements than those demanded in the two main stock exchanges. At the same time, inclusion on UPCoM facilitates visibility and access to equity capital for enterprises of different sizes and requires firms to improve transparency and corporate governance.

In 2017, the HNX started to categorise UPCoM-listed firms by size of capital in order to improve monitoring and supervision of the market. “UPCoM Large” refers to enterprises with registered/chartered capital of more than VND 1 trillion (about USD 43 million); “UPCoM Medium” are enterprises with registered/chartered capital of VND 300 billion to VND 1 trillion (USD 13 million to USD 43 million); and “UPCoM Small” are enterprises with registered/chartered capital of VND 10 billion to VND 300 billion (USD 430 000 to USD 13 million).8

The market capitalisation and number of firms on UPCoM has increased significantly in recent years. By the end of 2018, about 790 firms traded shares, thus exceeding the number of listed companies on HOSE and HNX.9 By the end of August 2019, there were 850 UPCoM-listed firms, the total volume of registered transactions exceeded 39.6 billion shares, and the market capitalisation had climbed to over VND 1 quadrillion.10

Overall, the creation of a junior equity market is a sensible policy which could ease the transition of fast-growing companies from the venture capital/private equity system to the public equity market. In doing so, it also offers an important exit strategy for early-stage venture capital investors. At the same time, the total number of companies in UPCoM appears to be very high given the stage of development of Viet Nam’s financial markets. This is partly the result of an entry threshold which is low by international standards and might inevitably reduce the level of scrutiny on companies accepted on this platform.11

This has led to concerns that UPCoM’s loose regulations, combined with a significant growth in listed firms and market capitalisation, could result in frauds due to the reduced ability of market regulators to oversee the quality of traded companies. As a step to increase transparency, improve market surveillance and better protect investors, HNX issued the new UPCoM Market Organisation and Management Regulation in 2017 (OECD, 2019[19]). This regulation increased the information disclosure and corporate governance requirements for companies trading on UPCoM to make them closer to rules governing the HNX mainstream stock exchange.

Viet Nam has issued a number of laws and policy programmes to support science, technology and innovation at the firm level, including the Science and Technology Law, the Technology Transfer Law and the Law on Intellectual Property Rights (see chapter 3 for more details). Of the 28 support programmes identified by the World Bank as either directly or indirectly targeting SMEs in Viet Nam,12 11 were categorised as focusing on innovation (World Bank, 2017[22]). A number of government agencies have been established to encourage business innovation, such as the National Foundation for Science and Technology Development (NAFOSTED), the State Agency for Technology Innovation (SATI), and the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation (NATEC).

The National Technology Innovation Programme (NTIP) (Decision No. 667/QD-TTg dated 10 May 2011) is a major innovation programme administered by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to boost innovation through the application of science and technology. It aims to assist firms in research and development (R&D), product testing, training and hiring of experts in product design, as well as in the production of new products. From an ecosystem perspective, it also supports the establishment of technology incubators. Over the 2010-2015 period, the programme supported in total about 40 000 businesses and 40 business incubators (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]).

As part of the NTIP, the government launched the National Technology Innovation Fund (NATIF) with the aim of promoting access to finance for technology innovation. The NATIF supports activities to introduce innovative technology applications; commercialise the results of scientific research and technological development; and bring to the market new products and services that have high technological content. NATIF’s charter capital is about USD 50 million; in 2018, it provided funding for 79 projects and organised intellectual property (IP) training for nearly 2 000 people (AED, 2019[23]).

The “Development of National Science and Technology Enterprises” programme provides guidance to firms to be recognised as science and technology enterprises (STEs). About 380 firms are certified by the government as STEs, with more firms in the process of becoming certified. Companies with the STE certification are eligible for support policies and incentives from the Vietnamese government (as per Decree No.13/2019/ND-CP), notably a corporate tax exemption for four years followed by a further 50% reduction for nine years in taxes on income generated from the development or sale of products attributed to R&D activities. Furthermore, STEs with mortgages are able to receive preferential loans from commercial banks with up to a 50% interest rate reduction and may get a further reduction or exemption on their water and land surface lease fees. They are also allowed to utilise facilities and equipment of government research labs and technology incubators with free priority access.

To be granted certification, a company must be able to create or apply scientific and technological results that have been evaluated by recognised agencies and must generate at least 30% of the total turnover from scientific and technological activity. If the minimum 30% of turnover condition is not met for a year, the tax incentive does not apply on that year. If the minimum threshold is not met for five consecutive years, the certification is withdrawn.

The STE programme is a valuable initiative although there are certain eligibility conditions, such as the requirement that 30% of the company turnover stems from scientific and technology-related work, which are difficult for enterprises to prove and for government to monitor. An alternative option would be to use other criteria to define STEs that are easier to measure, such as the share of the company workforce with a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate or graduate degree or still the amount of R&D spending relative to total revenues.

Although the SME Support Law is not primarily focused on innovation, certain incentives related to training and consultancy (on technical regulations and standards) specifically target innovative start-ups/SMEs and SMEs participating in global value chains. The law also states that organisations such as incubators and co-working spaces are entitled to reductions or exemptions from land rent, land usage fees and non-agricultural land use tax, as well as from corporate income taxes for a limited period of time. Furthermore, domestic SMEs operating in industrial parks or high-tech zones are eligible for reduced land prices.

The Programme on the Development of Supporting Industry (Decision No. 68/QD-TTg issued in January 2017) targets existing and potential suppliers of multinational enterprises in six specific industries (textiles and apparel, leather and footwear, electronics, automotive, metal products, and high-tech). Although it is not officially recognised as an innovation programme, it mostly consists of tax incentives encouraging R&D and technology transfer (see chapter 6 for more details).

In addition to fostering innovation in established businesses, more recently Viet Nam has also given priority to its start-up ecosystem. The main programme is Programme 844 (Decision 844/QD-TTg on “Supporting the National Innovative Start-up Ecosystem to 2025”), also known as the Initiative for the Start-up Ecosystem in Viet Nam (ISEV), and has three major goals:

  • To improve the legal framework for start-ups;

  • To create a national start-up portal that provides relevant information for innovative start-ups (e.g. technology, patents, standards, sources of finance, business models, events);

  • To support 2 000 start-up projects, of which 600 become start-up firms, and of which 100 secure follow-on investments or are acquired by an incumbent firm for a total business value of VND 2 trillion (approximately USD 95 million).

The main ISEV activities focus on setting adequate policies and legal frameworks for start-ups and building capacity and networks for the stakeholders of the ecosystem. The programme has reached a number of milestones, such as the launch of the national start-up portal (https://startup.gov.vn); support to 14 start-up organisations with funding of VND 20 billion (approximately USD 1 million); and the organisation of Techfest, an annual national festival for innovative start-ups.

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is the main entity responsible for ISEV, although implementation on the ground is mostly delegated to the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation (NATEC). NATEC has about 80 staff members, of which 30 work in five different policy divisions and around 50 work in centres that provide training of trainers, mostly to managers of business incubators.

Government-backed business incubators are an important part of the start-up ecosystem. They are selected for government support by a panel of experts, based on performance metrics related to the management of the business incubators and tenant firms. There are about 40 business incubators in Viet Nam, with 20-25 under government support every year. About one-third of the incubators receiving support are public entities, while the rest are privately operated. There is a general perception that private incubators perform better because they are often run by former entrepreneurs and investors, whereas public incubators are generally university-based and managed by professors with limited business experience. There is also significant heterogeneity across provinces in terms of the quality of incubators, which calls for measures to develop and monitor minimum quality standards.

Complementary to ISEV, the “Supporting students’ start-ups” programme (Decision No. 1665/QĐ-TTg of 30 October 2017), referred to as Programme 1665, also forms part of Viet Nam’s start-up policy. The two programmes are closely related, as Programme 1665 on student entrepreneurship is partly intended to support Programme 844 with relevant start-up projects and companies.

Viet Nam’s start-up ecosystem has also benefited from international donor funding in the past years. A prime example is the Viet Nam-Finland Innovation Partnership Programme (IPP), which ran from 2009 to 2018 and focused on supporting the infrastructure for innovative start-ups and the ability of start-ups to develop new products and services for international markets. An evaluation prepared for the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs concluded that the IPP project performed relatively well in terms of impact, relevance, effectiveness and efficiency (Frisky and Anjoy, 2019[24]).

Viet Nam’s innovation policies and programmes have a strong technology and product development orientation. Most of them have a supply-led focus, as they seek to encourage SMEs to use new technologies and produce high-tech products and services (e.g. the NTIP and the STE programmes). However, most Vietnamese SMEs lack innovation capabilities, leaving room for policy efforts to focus on strengthening these capabilities in the small business population.

For example, experiences from different countries indicate that helping SMEs to adopt ICT and digital solutions is an effective way of assisting the development of their innovation capabilities. The “Mittelstand-Digital” scheme from Germany is illustrative of an initiative that could be of inspiration to Viet Nam (Box 5.5). A second policy option would be innovation vouchers, a popular policy scheme that has been implemented in several countries (Ezell and Atkinson, 2011[25]). The idea behind innovation vouchers is to provide SMEs with small grants to purchase technology or collaborate with external knowledge and technology providers, such as universities and research institutions (see Box 5.6 for an example from the Netherlands). Evidence on the causal impact of innovation vouchers on SME development points to positive long-term effects (Cornet, Vroomen and Van der Steeg, 2006[26]).

The government of Viet Nam has supported trade facilitation in different ways, but trade promotion activities targeted at SMEs are still rare. Furthermore, there is no specific policy direction in the SME Support Law regarding the export development of SMEs, nor is there any reference to SMEs in the “Strategy on exports and imports for 2011-2020 with visions to 2030” (Prime Minister’s Decision 2471/QĐ-TTg, dated 28 December 2011). It can, therefore, be concluded that the objective of SME internationalisation, notably through export development, has not yet received sufficient attention in the government strategies of Viet Nam, which is perhaps surprising given the government’s emphasis on building stronger linkages between domestic companies and multinational enterprises (see chapter 6).

The Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency (VIETRADE), an agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), has responsibility for the country’s export promotion efforts. Formal trade promotion efforts in Viet Nam are relatively recent. In 2010, the Government developed its first National Trade Promotion Programme (NTPP) as a source of funding for industry associations, trade promotion agencies, and local governments to implement support activities to build the export capacity of enterprises.13 In 2018, the annual budget of the NTPP was VND 103 billion (about USD 4.3 million), which is not much given the size and export potential of Viet Nam. Since the creation of this programme, nearly 3 000 businesses have participated in trade promotion activities achieving almost USD 10 billion in export contracts (MOIT, 2019[30]). In addition to supporting the participation of SMEs in international trade fairs and exhibitions, VIETRADE supports SMEs by providing access to export consultancy and business matchmaking opportunities.

Significant trade facilitation efforts are underway, largely supported by the USAID-funded (USD 21 million) five-year Trade Facilitation Programme (2018-2023) to help Viet Nam implement a risk-based approach to border clearance and improve efficiency of border procedures. One important component of this project has been the establishment of the National Single Window, an online one-stop shop for customs clearance that allows exporting and importing companies to complete required customs clearance documents electronically.

By the end of 2019, 13 government agencies had submitted 198 (out of a total of 250) administrative procedures on the NSW site. However, due to limited technical capacities, some ministries have been slow to integrate into the system, and programmes to support SMEs in using this facility have not yet been defined (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]). The General Department of Viet Nam Customs has delivered training on the NSW procedures and, going forward, would be recommended to ensure the specific targeting and inclusion of SMEs in this training. In addition, more widespread efforts are needed to promote usage by SMEs of the Viet Nam Trade Information Portal, a web-based database launched in 2017 to provide all traders with ease-of-access information on the regulatory requirements for exporting and importing.

While trade facilitation and trade promotion efforts are key to building the export capacity of a country, it would also be important for Viet Nam to strengthen the export-readiness of SMEs through more intensive training and support programmes. Although VIETRADE reports that a variety of export-related training is available to new and small exporters, what appears to be missing is a co-ordinated and comprehensive export-readiness support programme. In Brazil, for example, the national export promotion agency has delivered for many years a standardised pre-qualification export-readiness programme for nascent and novice small exporters which has achieved good results and which could be of inspiration to Viet Nam (Box 5.7).

Another policy mechanism for engaging more SMEs in international trade is through the promotion of e-commerce. In this area, a National E-Commerce Development Programme (2014-2020) was approved by the Prime Minister in 2014 and has been implemented through the National E-Commerce Master Plan 2016-2020. In addition to putting into place the legislation and mechanisms to facilitate the development of e-commerce (e.g. national e-commerce payment system, digital signatures for ensuring the security of e-commerce transactions, popularising the use of credit cards), the programme has also aimed to build an online sales solution to assist SMEs in implementing e-commerce strategies as well as to support the participation of Vietnamese firms in major e-commerce platforms. The objectives of the programme have been to encourage the start-up of e-commerce enterprises, facilitate the integration of e-commerce by existing enterprises, and develop credible cross-border e-marketplaces. The target is for 50% of domestic enterprises to have an Internet presence by 2020 and for business-to-business transactions to account for 30% of import-export turnover.

There are a number of obstacles that domestic SMEs would need to overcome to make these objectives achievable, such as the lack of adequate human resources, concerns about internet security and the safety of online payment systems, and the high logistical costs of delivery services. In addition, in order to grow their business online, SMEs would need to train their employees on online marketing tools, customer service and brand building, as well as to develop knowledge of how to make the best use of e-commerce platforms. At present, specific policy support for the use of e-commerce by SMEs is lacking and initiatives to increase the online capability of SMEs have been fragmented (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]). An exception has come from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which in 2017 supported the launch of an e-commerce platform for SMEs in the Lower Mekong Region and the creation of a shipping service to help buyers arrange international shipping from this region.

Some interesting e-commerce initiatives have also been driven by the private sector, notably by the main international e-commerce platforms. For example, Alibaba has been a forerunner in the business-to-business e-commerce scene in Viet Nam by providing e-commerce support to about 500 exporters in 2012 and later by creating the Viet Nam Export Support Alliance in collaboration with its local partners (EVBN, 2018[47]). In January 2019, VIETRADE also announced a partnership with Amazon Global Selling to boost exports and the brand strength of Vietnamese enterprises through e-commerce over the period 2019-2021. This partnership includes a global e-commerce export and brand development programme and the delivery of e-commerce training for Vietnamese enterprises.14

More generally, to succeed in online business, exporters also need to have quality and safety certifications to create confidence among foreign buyers. In this instance, it could be important for the National Productivity Development Programme of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to target SMEs with a focus on expanding the quality of their products to meet international standards.

Public procurement of goods and services has the potential to significantly expand market opportunities for SMEs. As a result, governments around the world have increasingly taken actions to give SMEs better access to public markets (OECD, 2018[33]). This entails addressing the specific characteristics of government contracts that may adversely affect SMEs, such as the complexity of procedures or high technical and financial capacity requirements.

In Viet Nam, the public sector is a major market for the provision of goods and services. Between 2011 and 2015, capital investment from Viet Nam’s state budget accounted for about 29% of total investment in the economy, with roughly USD 25 billion spent on procurement, including by provincial and municipal governments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Although public investments constitute a large fraction of total investments in the Vietnamese economy, policies involving public procurement to support SMEs are limited. Article 14 of the procurement law (Law on Bidding No. 43/2013/QH13 dated 26 November 2013) stipulates that “small-size enterprises” are entitled to preferential treatment in the selection of tenderers for the supply of “advisory services, non-advisory services, construction and instalment” and can be awarded additional points in the assessment of bids. Although Article 6 of a further decree on the implementation of the “Law on Bidding” states that construction contracts below VND 5 billion are reserved for SMEs,15 the procurement law does not set policy targets with regards to the percentage or volume of procurement contracts directed to SMEs. Similarly, there is no data or register with information on government contracts involving SMEs. All of this makes it difficult to assess the extent to which SMEs are actually recipients of government contracts.

Therefore, the development of a database to track the involvement of SMEs in public procurement would be a crucial first step towards building more evidence-based policies in this domain. In addition, since SOEs account for a large share of production in Viet Nam, the government could also consider developing specific targets and policy programmes to encourage SOEs to procure from SMEs.

Viet Nam could also draw inspiration from existing international practice to learn on the different measures that can facilitate the participation of SMEs in public procurement. A common option, for example, is the use of procurement quotas (set-asides) or reserving contracts under a certain threshold value for SMEs (see the illustrative example from the United States in Box 5.8). Other measures include dividing contracts into smaller lots to make tenders more accessible to SMEs; reducing or simplifying the required documentation and procurement procedures; the use of e-procurement (since it increases the transparency of tendering opportunities); encouraging the involvement of SMEs as subcontractors in large contracts; training SMEs on how to apply for government contracts and public officials on how to draft calls more accessible for SMEs; and establishing a directory on SME products and services which can be consulted by procurement officials when issuing tender calls (OECD, 2008[28]).

As shown in chapter 3, the Vietnamese labour market is challenged by a general shortage of skilled workers with practical training, mismatches between the demand and supply of skills, and insufficient consideration of the needs of employers in the design of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes.

Support of targeted workplace-based training in SMEs should also receive more attention in Vietnamese legislation. The guidelines for the SME Support Law (Decree No. 39/2018/ND-CP dated 11 March 2018) state that SMEs are entitled to support for some types of training activities. In particular, the state budget shall cover at least 50% of the total expenses that SMEs incur in a training course in business administration;16 trainees in SMEs at the elementary TVET level (and for courses lasting no more than three months) are eligible for free tuition fees; and SMEs that provide the training premises may qualify for reimbursement of some of their training expenses.

However, as noted in chapter 3, Viet Nam’s current TVET system is geared more towards providing basic skills to labour market entrants and the unemployed than towards upgrading the skills of employed workers. Thus, Vietnamese SMEs lack a targeted programme that seeks to enhance the skills of their workers. Furthermore, SMEs find it difficult to commit to hiring TVET graduates, a common requirement for collaboration with TVET institutes, since most of their programmes are centred on short basic training courses that do not meet their real skills needs.

One way in which the national TVET system could become more attractive to SMEs is by supporting more demand-led, enterprise-based training to upgrade the skills of employed workers. The example of the Skillnet Ireland programme could serve as an example (Box 5.9). The inclusion of multinational enterprises in sector-specific learning networks could also enable SMEs to benefit from the transfer of knowledge of international standards, management practices and technology, and would align with the national policy target of linking domestic SMEs to global value chains.

The objective of entrepreneurship education is to instil, through the national education system, a positive view in the younger generations about the effects and possibilities related to entrepreneurial activity. It entails the suite of pedagogical activities to promote entrepreneurial skills, such as creativity, risk-taking, and leadership, as well as knowledge about the entrepreneurial process. Multiple tools are used in the teaching of entrepreneurship: classroom lectures, business games, the creation of real or virtual student business start-ups, business idea competitions, guest speakers, etc.

Entrepreneurial learning is not yet an integrated component of Viet Nam’s national educational system (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]). Entrepreneurial learning at the elementary level of the education system is not discernible and at the secondary level is evident mainly as an outcome of fragmented donor-funded initiatives, for example, the 5-day Young Entrepreneurs Adventure Camp for high school students co-organised by Viet Nam Young Entrepreneurs (an NGO) and US-based Babson College to nurture entrepreneurial mind-sets and connect the students with peers who share an interest in entrepreneurship.

Officials from the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) have stated the importance of instilling the spirit of entrepreneurship in Vietnamese youth at an early age. In the early stages of the development of entrepreneurship education, the creation of a multi-level National Commission on Entrepreneurship and Education, as done in the Netherlands, can help identify a programmatic approach to developing a continual learning path for students from primary school through to the university level. From the analytical work of this Commission, the Dutch government launched an Action Plan for Entrepreneurship and Education that led to the introduction of entrepreneurship education programmes at various levels of the education system (see Box 5.10). A similar approach could be emulated by Viet Nam’s MOET.

The government has made it a priority to introduce entrepreneurship to higher education students. This is evident in the Prime Minister Decision No. 1665/QD-TTg dated 30 October 2017 approving the “Scheme for Supporting Students’ Start-ups to 2025” to equip students in educational and training establishments with entrepreneurship knowledge and skills. This scheme supports the development of educational materials for innovative start-ups in Viet Nam, training for university professors in the teaching of entrepreneurship, an annual Start-up Day to be held at every university in the country, incentives to encourage universities to promote a start-up culture among students, and funding for pilot models of strong university incubators in three universities.

In line with the Prime Minister’s Decision, the MOET introduced the “Supporting Student Entrepreneurship 2017-2020 with a Vision towards 2025” plan (Decision No. 1230/QD-BGDDT of 30 March 2018) with the intent to make entrepreneurial learning mandatory for every university student, regardless of major, and to provide opportunities for students to start businesses (e.g. start-up clubs, start-up events, start-up training support, entrepreneurship/incubator centres and co-working spaces). This plan also instructed all higher education institutions, including vocational schools, to have a plan for implementing entrepreneurship education by 2020.

As of 2020, some specific universities had launched entrepreneurship education initiatives, which were most often funded by international donor organisations. These included, for example, the Research and Incubating Centre at the National Economics University in Ha Noi and the Maker Innovation Space at the University of Da Nang. The government has also co-operated with international organisations to foster entrepreneurial learning initiatives, such as through the Viet Nam-Finland Innovation Partnership Programme (IPP)17 which trained 23 lecturers and staff from 13 Vietnamese universities, colleges, and accelerators on the promotion of entrepreneurial learning. However, even the main universities in Viet Nam have not yet built a full entrepreneurship curriculum for their students, at best offering discrete short-term courses in functional areas of business studies, such as marketing, management and finance with a primary focus on theoretical content delivered in a lecture format (Dao, 2018[38]).

At the university level, Viet Nam may find the ASEAN Common Curriculum for Entrepreneurship a useful framework for designing an entrepreneurship education curriculum (AsiaSEED, 2012[39]). Core subjects covered in the curriculum include: entrepreneurial leadership, business planning, business policy and strategy, operations management, human resource management, marketing, business creativity, commercial law, communications, financing, environmental studies, business start-up and information technology management. The curriculum approach follows a consultation-based learning methodology involving students, academics and SMEs, and allows for localised material in addition to the common content, with suggestions for teaching methods and learning activities.

It is also important to take a cross-disciplinary approach to entrepreneurship teaching to provide the opportunity for non-business students to gain knowledge about the entrepreneurial process and learn entrepreneurship skills. This is especially true for students in science and engineering degree programmes as well as for those in the arts and professional schools, since future entrepreneurs will come from all kinds of educational backgrounds, not only from business administration programmes.

There is some evidence of cross-disciplinary projects in Viet Nam supported by international donors. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together with Dow Viet Nam has been delivering a programme to bring engineering students into the entrepreneurship domain through an investor-style business plan and pitch competition: i.e. the Maker to Entrepreneur Programme (MEP): Venture Demo Day.18 The aim of MEP is to inspire students to apply innovation and entrepreneurship to community development problems, while helping young inventors to commercialise and scale their innovations. In addition, in 2019, 30 engineering faculty from Vietnamese universities were trained by Arizona State University on developing entrepreneurship lessons tailored to young engineers. These professors then mentored MEP venture teams competing at the Venture Demo Day to develop their engineering projects into viable products and prepare their pitches. Programmes such as this are a starting point for bringing entrepreneurial skills within the reach of engineering students and should be further extended.

In response to the Prime Minister Decision No. 1665/QD-TTg of 30 October 2017, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), the line ministry responsible for TVET in Viet Nam, also proposed a strategic plan to integrate entrepreneurship education at vocational schools and colleges. This plan included teacher training, entrepreneurship training for students, and the development of related training materials and knowledge resources.

However, many TVET institutes have received limited guidance on how to infuse entrepreneurship in their existing curriculum or extracurricular activities or on how to develop linkages with the business community (Tien, Binh and Chuc, 2019[40]). Furthermore, there is also an insufficient number of lecturers trained on entrepreneurial learning (Tien, Binh and Chuc, 2019[40]). This situation should be addressed by enabling the technically-oriented instructors to participate in intensive training-of-trainer courses on the teaching of entrepreneurship course material, including on the selection of entrepreneurial teaching content, variation in teaching methods and methods of assessing students.

Although the government has committed VND 3 billion to support the national project to build the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, the budget focuses mainly on large cities and key universities, while it has been difficult for vocational colleges to obtain approval for project funds (Tien, Binh and Chuc, 2019[40]). In this regard, it would help if a specified percentage of central budget assistance would be earmarked for vocational colleges, with additional funding sources that could come from local governments.

Finally, the government of Viet Nam has used in the past the Know about Business (KAB) curriculum of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to teach entrepreneurial skills to vocational students.19 KAB was first introduced in Viet Nam in 2005 with the training of 110 Master KAB Facilitators and the translation of training manuals in the local language for the delivery of a 120-hour course. MOLISA could explore the option of using the KAB programme as a core component of entrepreneurship education in the TVET system, in much the same way as the Egyptian Ministry of Education has successfully done (see Box 5.11).

The promotion of women’s entrepreneurship has become an important government target in many countries. In Viet Nam, the National Strategy on Gender Equality 2011-2020 has the target of increasing the share of SMEs owned by women to at least 35% of the total by 2020. This strategy outlined a number of solutions for increasing women’s participation in entrepreneurship, including ensuring conditions for women’s full and equal access to economic resources (e.g. credit, land and market information), training and capacity building.

Ministries and other government bodies were instructed to participate in the implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy within the scope of their assigned functions, including formulating and evaluating annual and five-year action plans. However, no specific entity was identified as responsible for planning, co-ordinating and evaluating the specific actions of the Strategy. The best way to support coherent policy implementation is usually to designate a single government body responsible for co-ordinating and streamlining efforts related to women’s entrepreneurship development (OECD, 2012[43]; OECD, 2017[44]). In the case of Viet Nam, such a focal point could be in the Agency for Enterprise Development (AED), which has a mandate for co-ordinating SME policies and programmes, but does not currently have a focus on women-owned SMEs. The example from the Philippines, where each ministry is required to develop a Gender and Development Action Plan and report on its results, demonstrates how this could be achieved (Box 5.12).

Viet Nam is to be commended for including a definition of woman-owned SMEs in the SME Support Law (i.e. one in which one or more women own at least 51% of its charter capital). However, the only specific provision for women-owned SMEs in the SME Support Law is a 100% subsidy for training expenses related to business administration. By the same token, the AED does not have any specific programme targeting women entrepreneurs, depending instead on support for women’s entrepreneurship development from the Viet Nam Women Entrepreneurs Council (VWEC), the Viet Nam Women’s Union, and NGOs. It follows that women’s entrepreneurship is currently mostly supported through international donor funding in Viet Nam. Notable initiatives include:

  • The USAID Governance for Inclusive Growth initiative, a grant to the Viet Nam Association for Women Entrepreneurs in 2018 to organise training programmes to promote innovative business start-ups among women entrepreneurs and strengthen the network of women entrepreneurs.

  • The Netherlands-funded “Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises” 2016-2020 project, a partnership with the Viet Nam Women’s Union to support rural women in entrepreneurship.

  • The Global Affairs Canada-funded Women’s Initiative for Start-ups and Entrepreneurship 2018-2025 Programme, which supports women entrepreneurs and women-led start-ups with consultancy, training, mentoring, networking, and access to capital and markets.

  • The partnership of the US Embassy American Centre in Ha Noi with the Viet Nam Women’s Union and the Viet Nam Women’s Academy to deliver the “Start-up Smart for Women” training course for women entrepreneurs in 16 provinces in northern Viet Nam.

  • The ILO Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET Ahead) training project for women in business in Viet Nam, which has trained Vietnamese trainers in the GET Ahead methodology to deliver the training.20

  • The Australian Aid’s Investing in Women Initiative 2012-2020 (AUD 4 million), a partnership with the MPI, which seeks to improve women’s economic participation and build markets for women, including by encouraging investment in women-owned SMEs.

Apart from these donor-funded initiatives, the project “Supporting women in starting a business in the period 2017-2025” (Project 939), initiated by the Viet Nam Women’s Union and approved through Prime Minister’s Decision in June 2017, proposes to provide support to 20 000 women’s start-ups and the establishment of 1 200 women-led or women-managed co-operatives. This project encompasses a series of activities, including entrepreneurship skills training courses, matching fairs for women to exchange and learn, trade promotion, incentives for women to develop business ideas, and support for completing business plans and accessing resources to realise the plans. The Prime Minister’s Decision stated that funding for the project would come from the state budget, but would be complemented with funding from local governments. Governments in certain provinces have followed through providing resources to support the implementation of the project in their jurisdictions.21 In the first year of project implementation, more than 8 600 women started a businesses. To August 2019, the project had received more than 35 670 business ideas from women entrepreneurs, and Women’s Unions at all levels provided training and instruction for 33 465 women.22

Further development of women’s entrepreneurship would be greatly assisted by more specific and accessible support policies. Of particular importance would be the inclusion of women-owned SMEs in the programmes implemented under the SME Support Law. To facilitate this process, the AED could establish a Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Expert Panel, which could consist of experts from the private sector and civil society from across the country, including successful women entrepreneurs, representatives from key women entrepreneurs associations, researchers, business development service provides and key international partner organisations. The aim of the Panel would be to identify gaps in services and support measures for women entrepreneurs in Viet Nam and to propose appropriate solutions. An outcome from the Panel discussions could be, for example, a draft policy framework to promote women’s entrepreneurship development which could be consulted with relevant ministries, agencies, and international donor organisations and which could lead to an agreed Action Plan with targeted programme deliverables.

The VWEC has recently undertaken a needs-assessment of women-owned SMEs in Viet Nam, identifying access to finance, access to markets and business networks, and access to information and knowledge as the main needs and policy gaps affecting women’s entrepreneurship (VWEC, 2018[45]).

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates the financing gap for women-owned SMEs in Viet Nam (difference between the supply and demand for financing) at about VND 27 trillion, or USD 1.19 billion (IFC, 2017, p. 51[46]). Women entrepreneurs in the VWEC (2018[45]) study reported facing obstacles due to inappropriate loan application packages and collateral requirements, unsuitable loan terms, lack of collateral, lack of information about available capital resources, weak negotiation skills in borrowing, and lack of support from the spouse/family (necessary because women are required to have their spouse co-sign their loans).23 The report concluded that credit institutions in Viet Nam should develop loan products suitable to women-owned enterprises through simplified application processes, flexible credit terms and maturities, and a tailored credit rating framework.

Banks in a number of countries have been successful in designing special loan products for women entrepreneurs. A model example is the Inclusive Lending for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (ILAW) Programme of the Development Bank of the Philippines, which has a dedicated financing window for women. Often these loan programmes will include a capacity building component. In the case of the ILAW programme, mentoring and coaching is provided to the loan clients by members of the Women’s Business Council Philippines (Box 5.13). Similarly, the Women Entrepreneurs Financing Programme (WEFP) of the SME Bank Malaysia requires applicants to attend the Leaders Acceleration Training Programme (LEAP) organised by the Bank’s training, consultancy and research arm. This training aims to improve the competencies of women entrepreneurs, while providing an opportunity for the bank to assess the applicant’s ability to manage a business. Once the loan is granted, the SME Bank continues to provide business coaching to the women entrepreneurs to help them expand their business.

Efforts of Vietnamese banks to adopt approaches specific to women-owned SMEs and design tailored loan packages is evident. For example, the VPBank, with support from the IFC, was one of the first in the country to do so. Within the first year of launching the programme, the VPBank lent USD 600 million to 2 000 women entrepreneurs, accounting for 25% of its SME client roster.24 The IFC expects to provide an additional USD 150 million in loans to Vietnamese banks for financing women-owned SMEs by 2020, and another USD 200 million by 2025.25 This continued support from the IFC to encourage private banks in Viet Nam to be more inclusive of women entrepreneurs – e.g. through the IFC Gender Finance Programme and the World Bank-IFC Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative/We-Fi26 – could make a difference in improving women’s access to finance and changing the lending behaviour of banks. To make these international efforts more sustainable, Viet Nam’s public financial institutions, such as the Viet Nam Development Bank (VDB), could design similar loan products that specifically target women-owned SMEs.

On the matter of accessing markets and business networks, women entrepreneurs in Viet Nam prioritised assistance on trade promotion, value chain integration, market information, and referrals to local and foreign associations (VWEC, 2018[45]). In particular, women entrepreneurs expressed the need for a trade promotion programme developed specifically for them, which would include participation in trade fairs and product-introduction events where women entrepreneurs could meet potential buyers. To respond to this need, VIETRADE could consider designing a dedicated programme for women exporters, such as the Canadian Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) Service (Box 5.14) or the Malaysian Women Exporters Development Programme (Box 5.15).

On the matter of accessing information and knowledge, women entrepreneurs expressed a need for information on possible partners, output markets and legal consultancy services, as well as for knowledge development on corporate governance, marketing, financial management and quality management (VWEC, 2018[45]). Women entrepreneurs indicated that this knowledge could be delivered through training courses (with a strong preference for online training), counselling and mentoring, business linkages and the formation of associations and clubs of women entrepreneurs.

This chapter has covered a large number of SME and entrepreneurship programme areas, notably access to finance, innovation, internationalisation, public procurement, workforce skills, entrepreneurship education, and women’s entrepreneurship. Public support for SME finance is channelled mostly through the SME Development Fund and the Credit Guarantee Fund. However, the take-up of these programmes by SMEs and the banking system is low, calling for some adjustments in their operational arrangements. Venture capital and equity markets are moving their first steps and could be further assisted through a more conducive legal and regulatory framework and the introduction of tax incentives to encourage investments in high-potential start-ups and SMEs.

Innovation support is a common target of business support programmes, with a major focus on science and technology-driven enterprises and, increasingly, on the start-up ecosystem. By contrast, insufficient programme support is directed to building innovation capabilities at the firm level and to strengthening the capacity of SMEs to absorb external technologies. In the area of trade policy, the government has made important strides to improve the trade facilitation regime and to direct resources to export promotion activity, but more efforts are needed to train SMEs in export-related skills and online trading, including the use of e-commerce platforms.

Similar to other countries, Viet Nam’s training policies have privileged labour market entrants and the unemployed, whereas the skills upgrading of current workers, especially in SMEs, has been overlooked. Viet Nam could, therefore, launch a new training and advisory programme aimed at the enhancement of workforce skills and labour productivity in SMEs. The government is also committed to making entrepreneurship a mandatory requirement in Viet Nam’s universities, with significant programme activity underway. On the other hand, efforts at the elementary, secondary and vocational levels of education are at a very incipient phase and in need of capacity building and budget support.

Until recently, programme efforts to support women’s entrepreneurship have been driven and funded by international donors. However, the recent project “Supporting women in starting a business in the period 2017-2025” (Project 939) has important targets and, if well-funded, could have an important impact on women’s entrepreneurship. What is currently lacking, however, is an integrated national framework for women’s entrepreneurship development and a mechanism for the co-ordination of support activities. The AED could play this co-ordination role and, with the co-operation and collaboration of other stakeholders, elaborate a more integrated strategy for women’s entrepreneurship promotion.

Based on this analysis, the following policy recommendations are formulated to strengthen SME and entrepreneurship support programmes in Viet Nam.


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[47] IFC (2017), Women owned enterprises in Vietnam: Perceptions and Potential, International Finance Corporation, Washington, DC, https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/86bc0493-78fa-4c7d-86ec-5858aa41fa1a/Market-study-on-Women-owned-enterprises-in-Vietnam_Eng_v1.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[7] IFC (2011), SME Finance Policy Guide. International Finance Corporation, Washington, DC.

[42] ILO (2019), In Pursuit of Equality & Prosperity in Egypt – 2018 Results. International Labour Office, Cairo.

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← 1. The four partner commercial banks are the Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam (VietcomBank), the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV), the Viet Nam Prosperity Bank (VPBank) and the Ho Chi Minh City Development Bank (HDBank).

← 2. Information on the use of SMEDF comes from the Fund’s internal report of 2019.

← 3. As per the MPI Circular No. 13/2015/TT-BKHDT dated 28 October 2015 outlining the activity of the SMEDF.

← 4. As per Decree 34/2018/ND-CP on the establishment and operation of Credit Guarantee Funds for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

← 5. In 2018, the government increased the charter capital requirement for a local guarantee fund to VND 100 billion, to be provided from provincial budgets, which is likely to put a further strain on cash-constrained provinces (Decree No. 34/2018/ND-CP).

← 6. “ADB provides $300 million loan to BIDV to support SMEs in Viet Nam”, News Release, 12 December 2018, Asian Development Bank (ADB), https://www.adb.org/news/adb-provides-300-million-loan-bidv-support-smes-viet-nam/. 

← 7. “Fintech-driven lending to alleviate SME financing gap”, Viet Nam Investment Review, 22 July 2019, https://www.vir.com.vn/fintech-driven-lending-to-alleviate-sme-financing-gap-69416.html/.

← 8. Based on VND-USD exchange rates of May 2020.

← 9. “More UPCoM firms pose market management issues”, Viet Nam News, 22 November 2018 (https://vietnamnews.vn/economy/480565/more-upcom-firms-poses-market-management-issues.html)

← 10. “Market capitalization of UPCoM exceeds VND 1 quadrillion”, Saigon Online, 9 September 2019 (https://sggpnews.org.vn/business/market-capitalization-of-upcom-market-exceeds-vnd1-quadrillion-83468.html)

← 11. For example, although the UK is clearly at a different level of capital market development, the entry threshold in the domestic junior equity market (AIM) is GBP 6 million, more than 17 times the entry level threshold in UPCoM.

← 12. “Directly” implies that SMEs were the explicit target firms, whereas “indirectly” implies the programmes were open for any size of firm.

← 13. Implementing Decision of the Prime Minister No. 72/2010/QD-TTg dated 15 November 2010 on National Trade Promotion Programme.

← 14. Further information on the Amazon initiative is available at: “Amazon Global Selling sets up specialized team in Viet Nam”, The Saigon Times, 18 October 2019, https://english.thesaigontimes.vn/72128/amazon-global-selling-sets-up-specialized-team-in-vietnam.html/.

← 15. Decree No. 63/2014/ND-CP dated 24 June 2014 detailing a number of articles of the Law on Bidding regarding selection of contractors.

← 16. SMEs in disadvantaged areas and women-owned SMEs are eligible for free tuition fees on business administration training.

← 17. Between 2014 and 2018, the Viet Nam-Finland IPP had a budget of EUR 11 million to promote the development of entrepreneurship and a start-up ecosystem in Viet Nam (OECD/ERIA, 2018[5]).

← 18. “Bringing entrepreneurship competition to engineering students”, Vietnam Investment Review, 26 November 2019, https://www.vir.com.vn/bringing-entrepreneurship-competition-to-engineering-students-72050.html.

← 19. Know About Business factsheet, ILO, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_159163.pdf.

← 20. A useful lesson from the results of the GET Ahead programme is that business development training tailored to the needs and experiences of women, i.e. in conjunction with a gendered perspective, has stronger benefits for women entrepreneurs than offering general business training through the enhancement of empowerment and confidence (Huis et al., 2019[48]).

← 21. See: “Plan to implement the project ‘Supporting women to start a business in the period 2017-2015’ in the province of Thai Binh”, 26/02/2018, https://english.thaibinh.gov.vn/Policy%20of%20Thai%20Binh/plan-to-implement-the-project-supporting-women-to-start-a-business-period-20172025-in-the-province-of-thai-binh-55.html/.

← 22. Viet Nam Women’s Union website, http://hoilhpn.org.vn/NewsDetail.asp?Catid=67&NewsId=31217&lang=EN/.

← 23. The lack of hard collateral required by banks to support business loans is one of the major barriers to the development of women-owned SMEs in Viet Nam. Women are disadvantaged in this respect because, although the Land Use Rights Certificate (LURC) Law clearly states that both women and men have equal rights and opportunities to the access of land use and rights, women’s names are most likely not included on the LURC, which is held in the man’s name only (IFC, 2017[47]). Revisions to the Land Law have addressed this issue by requiring the name of both spouses on land certificates, but due to lack of information or adherence to cultural practices, certificates have rarely been changed. Consequently, if a married women entrepreneur wants to borrow money for her business, she must provide the bank with an approval from her male spouse to collateralise the loan.

← 24. “Women Entrepreneurs in Vietnam Get a Fair Shot with Financing”, August 2018, International Finance Corporation, https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/news_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/news+and+events/news/impact-stories/vietnam-banking-on-women-entrepreneurs.

← 25. “Increasing Opportunities for Women in Vietnam: Key Facts and Challenges – Country Overview”, IFC, December 2018, https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/e3d8e495-e048-4f82-9f63-3e545c5254fb/201812-Increasing-Opportunities-for-Women-in-Vietnam.pdf?MOD=AJPERES/.

← 26. The IFC has provided more than USD 400 million in financing to banks for relending to women-owned SMEs through the Global Finance Programme. Through the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the World Bank/IFC issued a USD 100 million loan to the Orient Commercial Bank in 2019, which will make at least half of that loan amount available to women-owned or women-managed SMEs.

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