There are three reasons why Vietnam is outshining its neighbouring countries when it comes to handling the aftermath of COVID-19
Vietnam is one of the first countries to ease social distancing measures and reopen its society as early as April 2020, where most countries are only starting to grapple with the severity and spread of COVID-19.
Also known as the land of the ‘Ascending Dragon’ (due to the geographical shape on the world map), it the first in Southeast Asia to emerge from the global pandemic, allowing for businesses and domestic travels to reopen. Vietnam is also identified as one of the first countries in Southeast Asia when Singapore reopened its borders for travellers.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam stands at 349 (as of 22 June), with zero deaths. This stands in stark comparison with more than 42,000 cases in Singapore, 30,682 in the Philippines, and 8,587 in Malaysia.
The international community is stunned by Vietnam’s breakthrough during this COVID-19 pandemic. An Asahi Shimbun reporter assigned to cover Vietnam was intrigued by the following statement by a Japanese national who works in the country: “Even though I talked about the very few patients infected with the new coronavirus and the Vietnamese government’s tough measures to combat COVID-19, no one in Tokyo believed me.”
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the IMF’s 2020 GDP growth forecast for ASEAN-5 countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – is cut to -1.3 per cent (and Singapore -4-7 per cent), but Vietnam is expected to still experience positive 2.7 per cent GDP growth, with a strong rebound of seven per cent projected in 2021. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc sent a positive 2020 economic growth target of over five per cent, in spite of IMF’s projection.
From this, we can see Vietnam is poised to emerge one of the strongest economies in Southeast Asia and these are the three reasons why:
Swift action and digital services
Vietnam’s ability to achieve such outstanding results due to the swift and decisive actions from the national government, followed by coordinated and dedicated efforts of the general population. Vietnam took action very early when there was minimal information about the virus.
Nationwide school shutdowns were implemented in January, travel restrictions and border closure followed quickly. Vietnam also implemented aggressive contact tracing and quarantine people who are exposed to suspected cases for two weeks.
The Ministry of Health developed an app, NCOVI, health authorities disseminated warnings and orders through Zalo, a homegrown messaging app with more than 50 million users, and the internet spread a coronavirus public awareness pop song that went viral.
The swift action and digital services enabled transparency and collective and informed decisions in Vietnam’s battle against COVID-19, enabling them to emerge fast from the pandemic.
Resilient economy and startup ecosystem
The Business Times reports “Mobility metrics show the fastest recovery of activity in Vietnam, with movements to retail and recreation venues having rebounded to just 15 per cent below the baseline, compared to more than 60 per cent below baseline before measures began to lift.”
People may remember Vietnam for their amicable people, natural wonders, and sometimes their fight for independence for over 30 years. Through this COVID-19 episode, the world now views them in a new light, as a resilient and stable country, and one of the hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship in Asia.
The innovation ecosystem in Vietnam is attractive to e-commerce, software outsourcing, AI, fintech, healthtech startups. With more than 3,000 startups in the ecosystem, total investment in Vietnam startups increased six-fold in the period of two years between 2017 and 2019.
Some of the tech startups have also contributed to the fight against COVID-19 in providing online medical consultations, medical deliveries, and on-demand access to healthcare services.
Strong cross-border collaboration
“Being ahead of the curve, the ASEAN chair is in good stead to lead and shape regional responses on the pandemic”, says Dr Huong Le Thu, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told The Straits Times.
Vietnam works closely with the regional neighbours in COVID-19 response and also in terms of driving regional growth and innovation.
To drive regional startup ecosystem development and integration, Vietnam’s public and sector stakeholders have been actively partnering with international entities for two-way market access for startups expanding in the region.
Quest Ventures, in partnership with statutory boards under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore and Saigon Innovation Hub (SIHUB), supports Singapore startups entering Vietnam through Vietnam Global Innovation (VGI) acceleration.
Leading venture capital in Southeast Asia, Quest Ventures supports startups through Quest Ventures’ wide network of mentors and domain experts. Startups will also have access to high quality and comprehensive online training module topics, and (if global health situation allows) an in-market immersion in Vietnam to maximize exposure and establish long-term partnerships between startups and ecosystem players.
It is no surprise that Vietnam emerged fastest during this health crisis and this winning strategy of swift action, resilience and cross-border collaboration is also the same one that will allow the economy and startup ecosystem to rise strongly in the region.