The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in General Santos City (GenSan) and financial technology (fintech) providers to ensure that marginalized youth are included in local business growth through the digitalization of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Leading mobile wallet apps GCash and Maya, as well as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Union Bank of the Philippines, are joining the effort to ease marginalized youth and local businesses into the digital economy.

Organized through the USAID Opportunity 2.0 program, the forum titled, “DigiBiz: Redefining MSMES’ Future by Leveraging Workforce and Digital Technologies,” gathered around 50 business owners, government officials, and youth to discuss strategies that would enable MSMEs to accommodate consumers more effectively through fintech tools and other virtual platforms, with the help of a young and dynamic workforce to help them thrive in the digital world.

“Gen Z are the so-called ‘digital natives,’ and the world they know is about the internet and social media,” said DTI Chief Trade Industry Development Specialist Eddie de Asis. “[They] will most likely take the lead among GenSan MSMEs in embracing digitalization and innovation.”

Opportunity 2.0 introduced to GenSan businesses the idea of closely working and investing in upskilled Gen Z youth, as they are equipped with universal life skills to help boost their operations. Mr. de Asis also added that the youth, who are attuned to vast technological advancements, also contribute to growing businesses.

GCash and Maya shared how MSMEs, including youth-led businesses, can manage transactions more seamlessly through their apps via instant transfers, virtual cash-ins, and other services.

Meanwhile, BPI and UnionBank shared tips and tricks businesses can apply to easily track their money and facilitate virtual transactions. The forum also set up a workshop to aid youth entrepreneurs with quick digitalization strategies that they can incorporate into their day-to-day transactions, from generating QR codes to ease payments, to sharing the best practices that will help them start and upscale their businesses.

USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 program works in 15 cities nationwide to encourage local businesses to open their doors to upskilled out-of-school youth as part of the future workforce. US-based Education Development Center, Philippine Business for Education, Accenture, Catholic Relief Services, Voluntary Services Overseas, and SEAMEO INNOTECH implement this program.