The Asia Foundation Partners with Mastercard to Launch Program Aiming to Reach 100,000 Entrepreneurs by 2025

Kuala Lumpur, June 26, 2023 — Today, Mastercard announced Mastercard Strive Malaysia to support Malaysia’s growth and digitalization priorities. In collaboration with The Asia Foundation, the program aims to digitalize and support the growth of 100,000 micro-and small enterprises (MSEs), focusing on women-owned and women-led businesses. The program strives to meet the evolving needs of Malaysian small businesses by providing them access to essential tools, networks, and resources while cultivating a more supportive business ecosystem. 

Mastercard Strive Malaysia is part of a portfolio of philanthropic programs – supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth – aimed at helping small businesses worldwide thrive in the digital economy. Additional Strive programs include those in the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, Czechia, and Indonesia. Collectively, they aim to support more than 10 million small businesses. In the Southeast Asia region, Malaysia is the second country to launch the Strive program.   

Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Minister of Higher Education for Malaysia: Strive Malaysia is a timely offer that will bolster our MSEs. The Ministry is delighted to partner with Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and The Asia Foundation to open the doors of our 105-strong network of community colleges to reach Strive digital tools and resources to MSMEs at their doorstep and in their local communities. 

Addressing Roadblocks to Digitalization 

Strive Malaysia launches on International Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, a nod to the critical role of small enterprises in driving the country’s growth. 

Datuk Ewon Benedick, Minister of Entrepreneur and Cooperatives Development, Malaysia: “The Ministry of Entrepreneur and Cooperatives Development is pleased to support any private sector effort that contributes to strengthening a conducive entrepreneurial ecosystem. I strongly believe that Strive Malaysia can serve as a platform to provide entrepreneurs, especially women, with the essential support to participate in the digital economy 

The backbone of the Malaysian economy, MSEs, account for 97.2 percent of businesses in the country, employing over seven million people and generating over half of the national gross domestic product (GDP). With the government’s efforts and investments to increase participation in the digital economy, the past decades have witnessed the growth of small enterprises in Malaysia.  

Despite this, a survey of local MSEs reveals that many still struggle to identify available support and which programs can best meet their needs. According to World Bank, only 54 percent of Malaysian MSEs utilize digital solutions, and only 58 percent have digitized payment systems. Further, women-led businesses face additional barriers, including access to technology and financing, that result in lower levels of digitalization and growth.  

Safdar Khan, Division President, Southeast Asia at Mastercard said, “Mastercard is committed to supporting inclusive economic growth in Malaysia by enabling MSEs to address the roadblocks to digitalization and access the tools, skills, and resources they need to become an engine of this growth.” 

Enabling Women-led MSEs to Thrive 

The International Labor Organization reports that women entrepreneurs in Malaysia have less access to banks and financial institutions, which often leads to constrained growth and a relatively low share of women-owned businesses in the country, with only one in five MSEs led by women.   

“Strive Malaysia will work to unleash the resilience and growth of Malaysian small businesses, enabling women entrepreneurs to break through systemic barriers so they can benefit from the digital economy,” said Subhashini Chandran, vice president of Social Impact, Asia Pacific at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. 

Enabling women entrepreneurs to access and scale their businesses in the digital economy contributes to economic growth. Research shows that by addressing the entrepreneurship gender gap and providing targeted support to more women entrepreneurs, Malaysia has the potential to increase its GDP per capita by up to six percent.  

Strive Malaysia will work to understand the gaps experienced by women entrepreneurs in their digitalization journeys and provide tailored solutions, including access to the right tools, networks, and resources to help them grow their businesses online.  

Mastercard and The Asia Foundation will work with government and private partners to provide support services to the identified MSEs in Malaysia. This initiative contributes to the government’s vision to build an inclusive digital society. 

Robin Bush, the country representative for The Asia Foundation in Malaysia, said, “The Foundation seeks to support Malaysia’s transition to high-income status and recognizes that enabling women entrepreneurs to thrive in the digital economy is a key component. We are very happy to partner with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to provide women entrepreneurs with a personalized digital upskilling strategy with tools, resources, and mentors to encourage growth.” 

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Their mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere, by making transactions safe, simple, smart, and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships, and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments, and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.  

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise, and technology, while administering the philanthropic Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs, and empower a community of thinkers, leaders, and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth.  

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives and expanding opportunities across Asia and the Pacific. Informed by decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region is focused on good governance, women’s empowerment and gender equality, inclusive economic growth, environment and climate action, and regional and international relations.

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