A global network of indigenous businesses is now accessible to Fijian businesses through its Fiji Chapter, whose representatives were at the Suva Flea Market this week for a “talanoa session” and to register interested SMEs operating there.
Offering a platform to what it calls “the cultural economy”, the Fiji Chapter of the World Indigenous Business Network (FCWIBN) was established in 2019 and in 2022, became the first chapter from the Pacific region to be registered with the World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF), its parent organisation.
“We are targeting different sectors of the economy, in terms of industry. Not just women – everybody. But this is specifically for women. We’re targeting this sector of the economy so they can participate in the development of the cultural economy of Fiji. So we’re trying to work on that with the women,” said FCWIBN general secretary John Tuiono.
“This is a business platform, not political. We are not against any ethnicity or racial lines. We are here for everybody. The national stance is you are here, you become a member, whether you are from India or China, if you are in Fiji, you can become a member of the Fiji Chapter.”
A group of business owners based at the Suva Flea Market attended the “talanoa session” with most curious to know how they would benefit from FCWIBN, which is charging an annual subscription fee of $20 per individual, $50 per co-operative and $500 for provincial companies and non-indigenous companies.
“The Fiji Chapter is linked to the WIBN. That’s what we bring,” said legal advisor Jovilisi Suveinakama.
“The WIBN comprise of over 80 countries. We’re talking about what you call a ‘cultural economy’, where indigenous businesses are able to link, trade, learn from each other and work together. So it’s about networking, learning and growing,” Mr Suveinakama said.
UNESCO recently described the global cultural and creative industries as being among the fastest growing sectors in the world. “With an estimated global worth of 4.3 trillion USD per year, the culture sector now accounts for 6.1 per cent of the global economy,” it said.
“They generate annual revenues of $US2250 billion ($F5.1t) and nearly 30 million jobs worldwide; employing more people aged 15 to 29 than any other sector. The cultural and creative industries have become essential for inclusive economic growth, reducing inequalities and achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.”
The Fiji Chapter held its inaugural annual conference in Suva in June, in which it managed to register more than 150 businesses, including the Fijian diaspora overseas, said Mr Tuiono, and there are plans to move out to the 14 provinces later in the year.
He said a digital marketing platform similar to Amazon was being created by the WIBN to connect chapters worldwide and once it is operational, it would link up Fijian businesses to what other countries have to offer and also be an avenue where they could sell their products.
“The beauty of this is it’s a globalised network. You’re not just in Fiji or have your thinking localised in one locality. You’re part of a huge global family with an equally huge marketing network, so that’s the plus, the benefit of this.”
Carolyn Ah Koy, a director of Kelton Investments, the landlord of the Suva Flea Market, said there are talks to use the Suva Flea Market as a business incubator.
“We’ve been talking with the gentlemen from WIBN and we are formulating ideas as to how best the Suva Flea Market can incubate and mentor the 200 businesses that are here within our precinct,” Ms Ah Koy said.
“Like we’ve done the Makete Show, we’ve done different things to see how best to be successful as small businesses in this precinct, because this is how we incubate.
You have to understand that MSMEs provide about 70 per cent of the employment in this country. That is a very important statistics for us as small business owners,” she added.
The WIBN is a global online community created by members of the WIBF to “connect, inspire, mobilise and support organisations and entrepreneurs in the sustainable development of indigenous businesses”.
According to its website, its “goal is to increase participation in the global economy by providing opportunities to broaden markets, improve access to business potential, increase indigenous economic benefits from major resource development and energy investments, and increase indigenous prosperity through economic growth”.