This year the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrates its 50th anniversary. But far from slowing down in its middle age, the half-century-old organisation is thriving, with its 10 member countries stronger than ever as they strengthen trade ties and create growth opportunities.
ASEAN started as a humble agreement between its five founding countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – to encourage political, economic and cultural cooperation as well as promote regional stability during the Cold War.
Back then, Southeast Asia was torn apart by conflicts and economic uncertainty. But as the region became more stable and the drive towards integration picked up pace, ASEAN continued to expand, first with Brunei joining in 1984 and later Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in the late 1990s.
Today, ASEAN is an economic powerhouse with 625 million people, and the world’s seventh-largest economy with a GDP of US$2.5 trillion.
More than 60 per cent of ASEAN's population is under 35 years old, creating a steady workforce and a large future consumer market. At the same time, the region's youth are tech-savvy, and e-commerce is poised to grow exponentially in Southeast Asia in the coming years.
The rising consumer class, increasing trade and investment opportunities, and greater demands for goods and services are all set to support the region's prosperity.