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The regional workshop held by ICA-AP in collaboration with the Committee on Consumer Cooperation, Committee on Trade & Business, and Saigon Co-op in Vietnam marked a significant milestone in fostering cooperative practices and trade networks within the Asia-Pacific (AP) region. With 30 participants representing 9 countries and 16 organizations, the workshop served as a dynamic platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration in the retail sector. Held from 20 to 24 May 2024 at the Saigon Co-op Head Office in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, the event centred on the theme "Coop-2-Coop Collaboration: Uniting Through Trade and Consumer Networks."


Throughout the workshop, participants engaged in a series of sessions aimed at achieving key objectives, including learning best practices of cooperative trade, identifying and overcoming challenges, studying successful business models, and establishing an international cooperative network. The diverse range of topics included successful models of Co-op to Co-op (C-2-C) trade, strategies employed by Saigon Co-op for success, challenges associated with C-2-C trade, policies contributing to the success of consumer cooperatives, and opportunities for cross-border partnerships.


Opening Ceremony and Introduction Sessions

On 21 May, the workshop commenced with a grand opening ceremony featuring inspirational messages by Mr. Nguyen Anh Duc, CEO of Saigon Co.op, and Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director of ICA-AP, setting the tone for the event. Dr. Abdul Fattah Haji Abdullah and Ms. Jeonghee Kim further emphasized the workshop's significance through live and recorded video messages.



In Session 1, Ms. Wan Azwati Wan Mohamed, Secretary of the ICA-AP Trade & Business Committee, and Ms. Itsumi Hishinuma, Secretary of the ICA-AP Consumer Committee, provided insights into their respective committee's roles and initiatives within cooperative trade and consumer practices. Additionally, a brief overview by a representative of the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance (VCA) offered valuable insights into the local cooperative landscape. These presentations laid a solid foundation for collaborative discussions and knowledge exchange throughout the workshop, enhancing participants' understanding of cooperative dynamics within the Asia-Pacific region.


Session 2 focused on the introduction of participants and their organizations providing a platform for breaking the ice and fostering networking opportunities and collaboration.


Session 3, a panel discussion on "Understanding Cooperative Trade Dynamics," moderated by Ms. Noor Azlinn Zahariman from ANGKASA, featured industry experts. Mr. Iyer presented on cooperative trade, focusing on global and regional perspectives. Mr. Todor Ivanov shared insights from a global standpoint. Representatives from Saigon Co.op, Ms. Nguyen Dac Anh Uyen, and Mr. Seng Joo Ng, highlighted Saigon Co-op's journey and successful joint venture. Interactive Q&A sessions followed, facilitating knowledge exchange and collaboration among participants.


Understanding Cooperative Trade Dynamics

On 22 May, session 4 on “Collaborative Initiatives among Cooperatives", led by Ms. Wan Azwati aimed to explore best practices of C-2-C trade and cooperation among participant countries' cooperatives. Each organization presented their best practices and cooperative initiatives. Following the presentations, a roundtable discussion was facilitated by Ms. Hishinuma. Participants engaged in constructive dialogue, identifying challenges related to C-2-C trade and brainstormed strategies to overcome them. Key topics included navigating logistical hurdles, fostering trust among cooperatives, and leveraging technology for efficient collaboration. Additionally, participants reflected on their learnings from the workshop and outlined actionable plans for implementing new strategies upon returning to their respective countries.




Additionally, participants had the opportunity to visit various Saigon Co.op stores, gaining practical insights into cooperative practices and retail operations. The visits included prominent locations such as Co-opmart Cong Quynh, Co.opfood Lam Van Ben, Finelife Urban Hill, Co.opXtra Tan Phong, SC Vivo City Shopping Mall, and Cheers Oakwood. These site visits provided participants with firsthand experiences, allowing them to observe successful cooperative models in action and garner inspiration for potential adaptation within their own contexts. Overall, Session 4 and the store visits not only enriched participants' knowledge but also stimulated discussions and collaborations, furthering the workshop's objectives of promoting cooperative practices and fostering cross-border partnerships within the Asia-Pacific region.


Visit to Cu Chi tunnels and Sightseeing



On 23 May, participants engaged in a cultural and historical excursion to the renowned Cu Chi tunnels, a significant historical site located in Ho Chi Minh City. This excursion offered participants a unique opportunity to delve into Vietnam's rich history and heritage, exploring the intricate network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War. Guided tours provided insights into the ingenuity and resilience of the Vietnamese people during wartime, showcasing the tunnels' strategic significance and the resourcefulness of those who inhabited them. Following that, participants enjoyed a sightseeing tour in the vibrant city center of Ho Chi Minh City. Immersed in the bustling streets and iconic landmarks, participants experienced the dynamic energy and cultural diversity of Vietnam's largest city.


The ICA Regional Workshop in Vietnam was a pivotal moment in advancing cooperative practices and fostering regional collaboration within the Asia-Pacific retail sector. Through insightful sessions, interactive discussions, and experiential learning opportunities such as site visits and cultural excursions, participants gained valuable insights and forged meaningful connections. The establishment of a robust international network of cooperatives sets the stage for ongoing collaboration, knowledge exchange, and mutual support. As participants depart with enriched perspectives and actionable strategies, the impact of this workshop extends beyond its duration, propelling cooperative enterprises towards sustained growth, resilience, and positive community impact in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.