Enhancing SME Resilience with Digitalization

August 6, 2020

Beijing, August 6  – The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Tencent WeChat launched the "Small Business, Big Impact" initiative, jointly calling to utilize digital capabilities to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, and to promote sustainable, inclusive, and resilient social and economic development.

According to data from the International Council of Small Businesses, formal and informal SMEs account for more than 90% of the total number of enterprises, provide 70% of the total number of jobs, and create 50% of the GDP in China. However, SMEs tend to hire more vulnerable groups as employees, while they also generally have less capital to serve as a buffer during economic shocks. In China during the pandemic, amongst all enterprises, SMEs were most affected by the economic recession.  

“COVID-19 has exacerbated existing challenges such as inequality by disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “This is also true of small businesses that do not have the same capacity to bounce back from shocks that large companies do. Closing the digital divide by assisting entrepreneurs to utilize digital solutions can help build resilience by ensuring business continuity and increasing access to markets and services.”

To increase SME resilience, the "Small Business, Big Impact" initiative will develop a recovery plan comprised of three thematic areas, namely: promoting a green economy, reducing the digital divide for entrepreneurs – particularly for those over the age of 50, and enhancing social resilience.

Leveraging the Tencent social media platform WeChat, the joint initiative can reach more disadvantaged groups and remote areas, reducing the digital technology gap. Previously the WeChat ecosystem has already produced a large number of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, taking advantage of its widespread adoption and digital capabilities, to provide remote office, online education, and contactless services during the pandemic.

“We pay close attention to sustainable development,” stated Zhang Jun, deputy general manager of the Marketing and Public Relations Department of Tencent Group. “WeChat has helped the platform's over 50 million SMEs to realize digital operations at a low cost and at a low threshold. WeChat will continue to leverage its digital capabilities in technology, products, and operations to help more SMEs achieve economic recovery.”

The initiative emphasizes that for SMEs, e-commerce and digital services help to increase access to markets and increase efficiency. It encourages SMEs to seize opportunities after the crisis to complete their digital transformation.

Moving forward, the "Small Business, Big Impact" initiative will also invite more companies, academics and community partners to join, transforming the major challenges faced by SMEs into opportunities for sustainable growth.