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The role of leadership and good governance in growing indigenous business in PNG

Removing barriers to the establishment of new businesses and creating a greater entrepreneurial mindset were two of the key topics explored at a recent panel discussion focused on growing indigenous business in PNG.

The event, hosted by the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct at the PNG Institute of Public Administration, brought together indigenous business leaders from Australia and PNG to reflect on what small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in each nation can learn from each other.

The panel comprised Mr Warren Mundine, a businessman, political strategist and indigenous advocate in Australia, Sir Nagora Bogan, Chair of the PNG Indigenous Business Council, and Mr Gideon Karali, a representative from a successful PNG landowner business Trans Wonderland Limited.

The audience included a select group of senior officials of leading government departments, agencies and the private sector.

SMEs are particularly important in developing countries such as PNG because of the role they play in poverty reduction. The PNG Government has set a target of having 500,000 SMEs operating in the country by 2030.

Sir Bogan said the event provided an essential forum for discussion as PNG looks to promote huge growth in the number of SMEs in a relatively short space of time.

“It gave rise to a lot of important, exciting sharing of ideas and also intellectual discussion about this particular issue,” Sir Bogan said.

“How can we translate that into doing what we can to help our people to make the transition from being subsistence farmers to living in the villages to actually becoming entrepreneurs? That’s the biggest challenge. We have the capability to do it, but we haven’t really mobilised to get that right.”

Mr Mundine said Australia and PNG could learn from each other on several topics, including how to create an entrepreneurial mindset among communities who have traditionally had limited involvement with business.

“Twenty-five years ago when I was a young bloke, you used to sit there and say ‘business and commercial activity is a white man’s game’. Well, (in Australia) we had to change that mindset, because if we were going to lift ourselves out of poverty, if we were going to take the leadership that we needed in our communities, then it was a mind shift (to say) that ‘we can do this’.”

Mr Larry Andagali Managing Director from Trans Wonderland Limited said it was valuable to hear how indigenous communities in Australia have been working to create new business opportunities in response to the slowdown in the resources industry – something that aspiring PNG entrepreneurs should also look to address.

“When those resources are depleted we are really left with nothing, so I’d like to use that as an opportunity to reinvest other royalties and equities that we get and put them back into agriculture and more sustainable business,” Mr Andagali said. “That’s a big challenge and it was quite interesting to understand how indigenous businesses conduct themselves in Australia and what we can do in PNG.”

Mr Mundine spoke of how indigenous companies had grown off the back of the resources boom in Australia and how the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy (3 percent of government contracts going to Aboriginal businesses by 2020) has given further support to this growth, increasing contracts by 1500 per cent in the last six months.

The Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct is a joint initiative of the Governments of PNG and Australia to promote ethical leadership and strong governance within the public sector at the national, provincial and district level.