Southeast Asia
Advancing ASEAN´s Regional Integration

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as well as Youth Entrepreneurs continue to face challenges in Southeast Asia.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has an ambitious agenda of economic integration among its Member States, primarily through the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025. ASEAN´s economic integration is an essential prerequisite for a future EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. Since 2018, Germany´s Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and Malaysia´s Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) cooperate in researching the progress of ASEAN´s economic integration. FNF and IDEAS aim to strengthen economic freedom and a start-up culture in Southeast Asia. At the heart of the collaboration, which is called “ASEAN Prosperity Initiative”, is an annual ASEAN Integration Report. The report was downloaded 11.000 times from the IDEAS´ website last year.

This year´s report, titled “Advancing Regional Integration: Priorities of the Youth in the AEC Blueprint 2025, was just released. It focuses on Southeast Asia´s youth.

The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 emphasises facilitating the participation of youth in the economy, particularly through human capital development and the nurturing of entrepreneurship. Such promises of youth empowerment are also echoed within the Initiative for an ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan, which states that access to financial literacy and productivity training for youth is to be further enhanced. By means of upskilling programmes - both in terms of management and/or technical skills - ASEAN nations have pledged to undertake dedicated initiatives catered towards youth development.

The ASEAN Community Vision (AEC) 2025 places a spotlight on the youth demographic, striving to empower them with essential tools and resources.

This year, the ASEAN Prosperity Initiative examined the implementation of the AEC Blueprint 2025 by focusing on pillars such as Labour Mobility and Connectivity, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and the Digital Economy. Authored by IDEAS researchers and enriched by inputs from youth leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and academic institutions, the ASEAN Integration Report 2023 is a compelling read for anyone interested in the future of ASEAN's dynamic youth population. The report acknowledges some progress, points out challenges and suggests policy recommendations.

Gain insights into recent developments, emerging challenges, and the perspectives of ASEAN youths by downloading the “ASEAN Integration Report 2023 - Advancing Regional Integration: Priorities of the Youth in the AEC Blueprint 2025” here:

*Kewalin Sa-ngapet is Program Officer Southeast and East Asia at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom´s (FNF) Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand. Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff is the Head of Office.