Samoa hosted the first Youth Co:Lab at Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, yesterday.
Present were 21 young Samoan entrepreneurs and mentors from Samoa Chamber of Commerce, with the goal of creating Information and Communication Technology (I.C.T.) solutions for an ethical and inclusive Samoa.
The Director of Women in Business Development Incorporated (W.I.B.D.I.), Adimaimalaga Tafunai spoke about the setting of social entrepreneurship in Samoa.
“W.I.B.D.I. focused on economic empowerment of Samoan families but after much research and meeting with Samoan families’ we were committed to finding opportunities, particularly for rural village people, to develop income generating initiatives, and offer viable incentives so that they didn’t have to leave their villages,” she said.
“W.I.B.D.I. began small but all we had were some ideas and a passion to help people. We all came from different backgrounds; I guess you can say we started out as social entrepreneurs, even though we didn’t know that at the time,” she added.
She also stated that working as a social entrepreneur is a worthwhile endeavor, and encourages everyone to follow their dreams, because anything is possible.
United Nations Development Programme in Economic Empowerment Bangkok Regional Hub, Cynthia Cheung said the programme aims to empower youth’s social innovations.
“All innovations and leadership that we try to encourage our youth to pursue are all Sustainable Development Goals (S.D.G.) related. There are 700 million youths in the region and one of the largest regions around the world and its growing.
“If we don’t solve unemployment right now, it’s a time bomb. Everyone needs education and a decent job so they can sustain their families especially their lives and the youths of now are the leaders for today and tomorrow.
“We strongly believe that youths need to be utilized, because if you’re not going to empower youths then they will resort to bad means which becomes problematic for the future. For us, it’s all about giving them the opportunity to learn and to prosper,” she said.
Ms. Cheung said bridging the gap between governments and youths is something that U.N.D.P. youth unit team is doing.
“We run national dialogues like the one we are doing right now in Samoa. Our role is giving them tools like design thinking and other innovation platforms that we adapt it to local contacts so youths can have a go at challenging themselves and their assumptions to see how they can break through and sharing ideas. I’ve been told that some of the youths already have their enterprises and some are still new and exploring ways of contribution.”
According to Ms. Cheung, three young Samoan entrepreneurs will present their solutions and ideas at the Digital Pacific Conference.
Login Limited founder, Therese Rivers is thankful for the programme because it provides knowledge to further develop her business.
“I applied to attend the Youth Co:Lab with the aim of working together with other young entrepreneurs like myself, but getting to know the workshop it highlighted many issues like gender inequality, poverty and environmental issues and we’re here to talk about ideas to tackle these issues. And hopefully come out of this with new ideas,” she said.
Samoa Chamber of Commerce C.E.O., Lemauga Hobart Vaai mentioned the young people are the future of Samoa’s business communities.
“We want to push them to come up with the ideas that will drive our economy, which give our people opportunities through employment, which is why we support this initiative.
“Our main role or partnership is bringing these young entrepreneurs using our networks. We have a young entrepreneur’s chamber and also outreach programmes in the community for participation.
“We have great partners like U.N.D.P. alongside local businesses Digicel, Bluesky, international chamber networks in China, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia which assist in the digital platform, capacity building and opportunities which we want to direct to the young entrepreneurs,” he said.