Vietnam is a country of 94 million people. Of that, nearly 70% of the population is 40 and under. That makes for a very young population, that is looking to the future of Vietnam.
The amount of entrepreneurs in Vietnam never ceased to amaze me. From the pop-up shops on corners, to the rows and rows of fresh vegetables and fruits at the market, to the fact that every single house sat on top of a coffee shop, a seamstress shop or a leather shop, you were completely immersed in the commerce of the country. You could hop on a motor scooter for $20 or a quick ride if you were brave enough, and Jeff in our group was brave enough!
It seemed as everyone was working or operating a business in some shape or form. The towns were always bustling, people were drinking coffee or having lunch with friends and family, and people were making sales in their shops.
The fact that Vietnam does have a very young population means that the country will have to look towards job growth in both public and private sectors. Poverty is a problem in the country. The country has already started to initiate certain workforce programs. We were able to visit one restaurant, called KOTO, that had a really awesome mission. KOTO stand for Know One, Teach One because learning should be passed on and knowledge is meant to be shared. It definitely fit exactly what we were all doing there with MARL. KOTO has two training centers, on in Hanoi and one in Saigon, where they train students in the hospitality industry. The idea is to give students practical, tangible skills and assistance to gain employment in the fast growing restaurant and hotel industries in Vietnam. They learn English as part of their training as well. The concept was simple – provide the training and it will help uplift them from poverty through skills and employment. We decided as a group to donate a brick for their wall. If you donated a set amount towards their mission, you were able to have an engraved brick go up in their restaurant. So if you ever visit Koto in Hanoi when you are in Vietnam, check for a brick with MARL Class VIII on the wall.
We were also able to visit an art shop where they worked to employ youth either in painting, crafting, sales and business. I purchased a few items while I was there, a cute whimsical painting for Harper’s room of a cow, a chicken and a spotted egg, as well as a silk embroidered scene of Vietnam.
I talked about how we were able to visit the Reunification palace my last post. The reunification palace was renamed as such to serve as a symbol for the reunification of North and South Vietnam moving forward after the war. The country has moved forward after the war. Their tourism industry is thriving, and understandably slow. The people we encountered at our restaurants, our hotels, and our tour guides were all amazing. They were kind, generous, helpful, and very friendly.
The country is focused on growing their economy through trade. When we visited the TCIT terminal in the Cai Mep port, they talked about growth and how important the TPP agreement was to them. They built to be able to expand and take in more goods as well as ship out more goods. Their utilization was only at about the 65% level, so increased utilization was built into their initial business growth platform because they knew their business would be growing.
The country does have to work on things like infrastructure – did I mention the electrical is a bit questionable there? And they are in the process of building roadways and a new airport. It just takes a very long time in Vietnam. Corruption within their government entities is a very real issue.
I do believe with such a young population, this country will be an exciting one to follow with where they go with trade, business, and tourism moving forward. The flight is a doozy to get over there, but so, so worth it if you are looking for a place to travel.
My trip to Vietnam was life changing, and one that I don’t think I will ever get to repeat any time soon. The people, the food, the colors, the smells, the scenes…everything was just breath-taking. I don’t think my words could ever do it justice. I hope you enjoyed my series exploring my MARL trip to Vietnam. I am so thankful that the MARL board sent us to this amazing place. If you are a MN resident, especially a MN farmer, consider applying for the next MARL class. Applications are open through May 17th.