Fostering youth entrepreneurship

Representatives from the private sector, N.G.O.s, Government Ministries and United Nations agencies gathered in The Orator Hotel, Tanumapua, last week to discuss the creation of a Small Business Incubator for Youth in Samoa. 

A Small Business Incubator is a facility established to help create and grow businesses from an early stage. It is a place where entrepreneurs are supported to develop their idea, make it viable and able to survive in a competitive marketplace. 

A Small Business Incubator offers entrepreneurs a variety of technical and financial services. It usually provides working space, facilitates networks and access to information. It can also help to reduce the cost of launching an enterprise. 

Creating a Small Business Incubator for Youth is an initiative of the Samoa One-U.N. Youth Employment Programme (Y.E.P.), a programme led by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.) with support from six U.N. agencies (U.N.D.P., I.F.A.D., I.L.O., F.A.O., U.N.E.S.C.O. and U.N.V.). 

Supporting youth entrepreneurship and the development of micro and small-businesses is a priority of the Government of Samoa. It is reflected in the new National Youth Policy 2016 – 2020 and it is articulated very clearly through the Economic Empowerment objectives within the Community Sector Plan 2016 – 2020 of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.

In April 2016, Cabinet gave its approval to renovate the former Ministry of Internal Affairs/Fale Pulenuu site and to convert the disused buildings into a new Small Business Incubator for Youth. The M.W.C.S.D., through the Y.E.P. programme, is developing a new partnership with the Small Business Enterprise Centre (S.B.E.C.) for the management of the incubator facility and the coordination of service delivery to youth entrepreneurs in the rural communities.  

The two-day workshop was facilitated by Dr. Asif Chida – U.N.D.P. Private Sector Development Specialist - and Keith Phillips, a businessman and leading thinker on innovation and business incubation processes with experience at global level. Participants at the workshop gained knowledge on different models of Small Business Incubators that have proved successful in New Zealand and in other Pacific Islands, specifically New Caledonia, Palau, Guam and Tahiti. Discussions focused on how those models could be adapted to Samoa. Furthermore, participants debated on the most effective approach to supporting youth entrepreneurship in different sectors including tourism, agri-business, the arts and creative industries and innovation through computer-based technology. 

Tuilagi Allan Alo Va’ai - President of Samoa Arts Council - who attended the workshop said: “It is a groundbreaking opportunity to create a platform and fundamental support systems for nurturing financially viable and technical opportunities for youth in Samoa. This will essentially build the capacity for realistic job opportunities for artistic and creative expressions that can naturally be fostered, marketed and rewarded, not just in the local context but internationally as well.”

When asked, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce declared: “The Chamber of Commerce is very optimistic about the Small Business Incubator. We believe that as a stakeholder of this initiative we are able to contribute to its development through the services that we provide in enabling a community of young successful entrepreneurs in Samoa.”  Following the workshop, the process of creating the Small Business Incubator for Youth will continue, both in terms of the physical infrastructure and the design of services to be delivered to budding entrepreneurs in the villages. Consultations with youth entrepreneurs will be coordinated through the Samoa National Youth Council. Moreover, the M.W.C.S.D., the U.N. agencies and the Y.E.P. management team are reaching out to champions within the private sector, to come forward to support the initiative through mentoring, technical advice, skills development and access to markets by youth entrepreneurs.

At the closing event, Ms. Lizbeth Cullity, U.N. Resident Coordinator said: “I look forward to seeing a place in Samoa where the potential of aspiring young entrepreneurs can be unleashed.”

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