Over 200 entrepreneurs from across the Pacific region and other stakeholders attended the inaugural Pacific Islands Entrepreneurship Expo at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji. The two-day event set to unleash the potential of entrepreneurs and small enterprises ended today.
One of the key highlights of the event was the business pitches delivered by finalists from the GGGI Pacific Greenpreneurs Accelerator Regional Pitch Finals. Ginger-Lei (Fiji) Pte Ltd won the final.
Among the finalists was Masa Kawaguchi from South Pacific Mozuku in Tonga. Kawaguchi was awarded a 6-month virtual membership of Greenhouse co-working. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of this event,” he said.
Kawaguchi brought the spotlight on the mozuku seaweed otherwise known locally in Tonga as limutanga’u, a rare type of seaweed which are only found in Japan and Tonga. He referred to limutanga’u as Tonga’s ‘lost food’, a special nutritional type with many medicinal and health benefits.
Although Kawaguchi did not attend the Expo because the seaweed harvesting season had just started and he had to be back home for it, he delivered his business pitch virtually from his seaweed factory in Tonga to a crowd of over 100 attending in person in Suva.
This ground-breaking Expo was jointly organized by esteemed institutions including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Programme, and ygap.
GGGI Senior Program Officer, Esther Bates, emphasized the significance of the Expo in showcasing innovative developments in the Pacific region. She highlighted that the event aimed to connect and encourage collaboration among entrepreneurs, enabling them to engage with financial providers, donors, and other key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
‘Elina Langilangi, Manager Director for TEL Tonga, said that the Expo was about networking, exposure, learning. “I wanted to see what are they doing different so I can learn and absorb and bring it back to Tonga, not just for me but also for other small businesses,” Langilangi said.
Zoe Victoria Tate, a technical specialist at UNCDF, highlighted the centrality of access to finance in UNCDF’s mission and its support for the Expo. She acknowledged that entrepreneurs often drive economic growth and innovation, but in the Pacific islands, they face significant challenges due to high business costs and limited access to finance. The Expo aimed to address these challenges by bringing together talented entrepreneurs, development programs, financial service providers, and potential investors to identify pressing demands and enhance the business ecosystem.
Siosifa Pomana, Office Manager at the Tonga Chamber of Commerce & Industry attended the event as the Country Facilitator for the Pacific Greenpreneurship Incubator program. “This historic event sums up the aspirations and commitment of Pacific Island entrepreneurs, a collective commitment to secure a greener future,” Pomana said.
The Expo leaves a lasting impact on the entrepreneurial landscape in the Pacific Islands, with recommendations for future events focused on increasing female participation, green entrepreneurship, enhanced networking opportunities, and long-term sustainability planning.