On behalf of the International Labour Organization, I would like to congratulate the FCEF on the establishment of Young Entrepreneurs Council. I am most delighted to celebrate the launching of YEC together with all the participants here today.
Private sector development is the key for the economic and social development of the country. Enterprises produce and supply goods and services to satisfy the needs of the society. On the other side of the coin, enterprises create jobs and provide employees with income that they need to purchase goods and services. Indeed enterprises are the vital engine of the society.
Nurturing young entrepreneurs to grow means to invest in the future of the Fiji. But how? Young entrepreneurs are facing specific challenges. What are the down sides of being a young entrepreneur? Not experienced on business. Technical skills not matured. Having limited business networks and access to market information. Lack of access to the financial support. Lack of knowledge on the government policies and regulations.
But if we look at the positive sides of young entrepreneurs, we can find: enthusiasm or eagerness to be successful, availability of time and physical strength, fresh creativity and perhaps the power of dreaming. Globally, it is true that more enterprises are started by youths.
YEC is a functionary to support the young entrepreneurs to realize their dreams by influencing Government policies to be more conducive for them to grow. Being as part of FCEF, the voice of YEC members can be heard in the public sphere. For example, FCEF is a key member of the Employment Relations Advisory Board – known as ERAB – which advises Labour Minister on policy issues. Similarly, FCEF is well-connected to other sectoral policy discussions. With YEC, young entrepreneurs gained a channel to reflect their voice in the policy making process.
Being a part of FCEF, there could be opportunities for young entrepreneurs to have mentoring support from the senior members. Such relationships could enable young entrepreneurs to expand their business networks. Obviously, senior members of FCEF will also be benefitted by expanding business partnerships. For FCEF, YEC is the nursery of the future leaders.
This model has started to create a demand for youth chapters in various private sector organizations in the Pacific. Next week, the ILO, Pacific Youth Council and Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) is meeting to discuss the replication of this YEC in the region.
The ILO, being as an UN agency uniquely based on tripartism, we will support Government as well as Employers and Workers’ Organizations to make Decent Work a reality. With FCEF in the past few years, we have been working on Corporate Social Responsibility and also supported FCEF in establishing the Women Entrepreneurs Council, which is another functional wing of FCEF. With the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations and YEC together, the ILO has been engaged in the technical support for the recovery of enterprises affected by Cyclone Winston currently in Ra and Ba. This partnership will be extended soon in Cakaoudrove, Bua and Lomaiviti, in sectors aligned to the government’s Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and the Disaster Recovery Framework (DRF).
The ILO’s technical assistance to youth micro enterprises in this respect is based on the concept of Building Back Better, including business training, disaster risks management, value chain development, local economic development strategies, also, links to social protection such as FNPF and micro insurance.
Finally, and importantly, I would like to thank the chief guest, Hon. Sayed-Khaiyum for his presence in this meeting. The recent budget announcement included incentives for the employment of young people, including persons with disabilities. His blessing of YEC will energize young entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. The ILO will continue to provide entrepreneurs with technical support through the Government and social partners to build back better. Good luck for YEC.
(Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi)