The 50th anniversary of ASEAN in 2017 was cause for celebration. Ten highly diverse countries have navigated five decades of domestic and geopolitical turbulence, economic change and technological disruption to emerge as a strong community of nations.
But looking ahead, the challenges are rising as profound shifts occur at accelerating speed. A broad-based economic recovery is welcome, yet it is fuelling deepening income inequality and rising environmental pressures. Geopolitically, we are moving from a unipolar system of governance towards a multipolar and multiconceptual order with precarious friction points. Nation states face new threats to stability and eroding public trust.
Underlying all these trends are the uncertainties of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technological change is delivering exciting solutions to persistent problems, yet it is also disrupting jobs and social structures. In ASEAN, the labour force is forecast to expand by 11,000 workers every day for the next 15 years. And yet, industrial robots now out-compete low-skilled manufacturing labour; artificial intelligence threatens ASEAN’s service jobs; and self-driving vehicles are already at work in South-East Asia. How will the region’s growing workforce find jobs?
Addressing these issues will call for entrepreneurship. At one level, the region must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals and SMEs to build new companies and new industries. But, just as important, ASEAN must embrace entrepreneurship in the crafting of policy, governance models, geopolitical relationships and new approaches to inclusive growth. In short, there must be entrepreneurship not only in the business interest, but in the public interest, too.
Join us in Ha Noi to shape the path forward through ASEAN’s big transitions. During our meeting, you will connect not only with the region’s political, business, academic and civil society leaders, but also with a group of 100 hand-picked start-ups. This group of early-stage companies represents the very best of ASEAN’s dynamism and entrepreneurship.