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Media Releases

Business Link Pacific, the Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion and the Lae Chamber of Commerce announce new Business Support Grants for the private sector in Papua New Guinea

Business Link Pacific, the Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion and the Lae Chamber of
Commerce announce new Business Support Grants for the private sector in Papua New Guinea
06 July 2023

Business Link Pacific (BLP), a private sector development programme delivered by DT Global and funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), has announced the availability of new Business Support Grants for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Papua New Guinea. “Aotearoa New Zealand is pleased to continue our support for Business Link Pacific. As I get around and meet businesses and chambers of commerce, I have heard how much Business Link Pacific is valued in Papua New Guinea. And these Business Support Grants will help businesses here invest in and grow
their operations, creating jobs and economic benefits for local communities”, said Peter Zwart, New Zealand High Commissioner to PNG

The Business Support Grants are designed to stimulate SME growth, innovation, access to finance, and investment in social inclusion and climate action. SMEs in Papua New Guinea can present proposals that
meet the criteria of at least 1 of the following 5 categories:

• Innovation: grant will be used to drive innovation within the business.

• Growth: grant will used to drive business growth.

• Inclusion: grant will be used to increase inclusiveness within and by the business.

• Climate: grant will mitigate, adapt, or increase resilience to climate change.

• Finance: grant will be used to secure additional finance e.g., equity for a loan.

To apply, businesses must submit a proposal that outlines the project they are proposing to undertake, the expected outcomes of the project, and the financial resources they are seeking. Proposals will be
evaluated based on their alignment with at least 1 of the 5 grant categories mentioned above, as well as the feasibility of the project, the sustainability of the project, and the quality of the proposal.
Grants will be awarded based on business size and other factors. As a guide, businesses with up to 5
employees are eligible for grants up to NZD 5,000 equivalent (11,000 PGK), and businesses with up to 10 employees are eligible for up to NZD 10,000 equivalent (22,000 PGK). Businesses with 20 employees or more can apply for grants up to NZD 20,000 equivalent (44,000 PGK). Businesses with up to 50 employees can apply for grants up to NZD 30,000 equivalent (66,000 PGK). BLP encourages applications from women, youth, indigenous entrepreneurs, and community-led
businesses. Guidelines and full criteria can be found on the BLP website. https://businesslinkpacific.com.
The Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion and Lae Chamber of Commerce will assist with the submission of applications. SMEs that require assistance to access the internet or computers should
contact them to be supported. “We are excited to announce the availability of these new Business Support Grants, to support local
businesses with their innovation and growth projects. We know that grants can boost SMEs capacity to access finance, increase employment and invest in critical issues such as climate resilience,” said Steve Knapp, director of BLP. “The growth and empowerment of MSME is critical to the country. Unemployment is high and our people
want to learn how to run a business successfully and profitably. The BLP programme is one of real sustainability, not only providing support to SMEs but to business service providers, who are also local
business, that have not only local knowledge but continue to work with, mentor and develop our SMEs into more robust businesses. There is not a business in the world that started out ‘big’, all businesses
start small and with the right attitudes, support and guidance grow into big and successful businesses.

We applaud and support BLP as truly a circular, sustainable model and are pleased to be part of it,” said the president of Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), John Byrne. The Advisor to Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion Mr. Saliya Ranasinghe said, “There is an increasing recognition of the importance of SMEs in supporting overall economic growth. According to a recent survey of nearly 50,000 firms in 104 countries, SMEs provide as much as two-thirds of all employment, with small firms contributing more to employment in low-income countries than highincome countries.”

Further information:
Enquiries about this news release should be made to the BLP Service Managers- Ensie Rennie lae@businesspacific.com, Gabriel Iso png@businesslinkpacific.com and Adelle Auhava cefi@businesslinkpacific.com

About Business Link Pacific:
BLP is a private sector development programme funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and aimed at supporting the economic growth of Pacific Island countries.

The Business Link Pacific team is based in New Zealand and is currently supported by in-country partners in Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. BLP is extending its services to Nauru, Niue Tokelau and Tuvalu.

Since Business Link Pacific was established in 2017, it has assisted over 6,500 small-medium sized businesses with online Business Health Checks, Continuity Plans and in-depth diagnostics. Also, it has facilitated over 2,000 business advisory services subsidies, nearly 600 business grants and contributed to the creation of an estimated 1,300 new jobs; 41% of which are filled by women.

Case studies and stories about the business talent in the PICs have been captured and shared with the Business Link Pacific audience both in New Zealand and across the Pacific Region, and can be accessed via the Business Link Pacific website.

Business Link Pacific in Papua New Guinea is coordinated by the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion. It has a quality approved Network of 47 business advisors offering services in 15 areas of business advice, including accounting, marketing, HR, business strategy, training, and couching. Approved business advisors can offer subsidies to eligible local SMEs to partially cover service fees. BLP has provided 209 subsidies in Papua New Guinea, 127 to businesses with one or more female owners and 31 Adaptation Grants for a total value of 267,470 NZD (587,038.71 PKG).

BLP is adding another important element for the SME support eco system in Papua New Guinea. Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion is extremely pleased to be part of this important support structure that facilitate growth and prosperity. We encourage SMEs to use this opportunity to improve and grow entrepreneurship, skills and access to credit and markets.

Lae is known as the commercial hub of Papua New Guinea, contributing immensely to the economy of the country. The Lae Chamber of Commerce promotes the economic viability of local small businesses to develop, grow and contribute equally to the economy. Through the partnership with Business Link Pacific has given the opportunity for our local SMEs throughout Papua New Guinea to benefit from the BLP services including the grant, for the sustainability of their business operations.

Impact Stories

Impact Story 2 – Cecilia Pepson

How digital business and finance education has revived the business of a determined woman entrepreneur after the Covid19 pandemic and sparked a passion for financial inclusion in her village.

It was January 2020 and the world was on lockdown. The Novel Corona Virus had swept over the world striking down millions of people. There was a pandemic on the loose. And it was not just human lives that were affected.

The global economy had come to a standstill. Restrictions on the movement of people meant businesses could not sell goods and services.

The results would be devastating for all businesses, sectors and people alike worldwide.

Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Papua New Guinea were the hardest hit.

As the hold of the pandemic slowly eased and the world slowly began to re-open, many businesses would struggle to recover without help.

However, embracing innovation proved to be the game changer for many business owners in the recovery process.

Cecilia Pepson, a businesswoman in the Port Moresby Real Estate Industry, is one such case.

Originally from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ABG) and married to a man from the Western Highlands Province, Cecilia owns and manages the Harbor View Apartments in downtown Port Moresby.

She had a thriving business which she started in the year 2004 providing accommodation to expatriates and tourists.

Before the year 2019 ended, the looming pandemic would see all her foreign tenants packed and headed back home overseas.

Just like many MSME owners, Cecilia was not ready for that. She was not a business professional with a college education to help her respond strategically. She was just an entrepreneur that made an income from renting her apartments. As the first months of 2020 came, her revenue stream had dried up as borders were closed and the shutdown of cities became effective.

What pushed Cecilia into becoming an entrepreneur was her desire to support her husband and afford the best education they could for their children.

Her husband was a former diplomat, Ambassador Gabriel Pepson.

For ten years, her children had been exposed to quality education in Europe where her husband was posted as the PNG Ambassador to the European Union. When his term ended and the family returned to PNG, Cecilia shunned the thought of her children missing out on quality education she knew existed overseas. But to do this, the couple would need a profitable business to support them financially. The Port Moresby real estate market provided exactly what they needed.

The business had helped to accomplish her dreams of providing quality education to her children and a dependable regular flow of income. However, after fifteen (15) years in operation, the implications of the Covid19 pandemic set her business on a downward spiral.

As Cecilia contemplated her next move in 2021, a friend from the Bank of PNG suggested she enquire with CEFI for business advice.

Around that time, CEFI was about to implement “The Training and Mentoring Program for Women-Led Businesses.” An initiative by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with funding from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the program provided virtual training on financial literacy, business planning and debt management, and e-commerce to women entrepreneurs.

An important aim of the initiative was to help women-owned businesses recover from the effects of the Covid19 pandemic.

Cecilia was ecstatic to learn about the training and quickly expressed her interest to attend the program.

Within six months of completing her training, Cecilia breathed life back into her business by applying her newfound business skills. By the end of December 2021, her e-commerce skills had brought in tenants for her apartments.

“Using the knowledge gained from the training, I was able to advertise my business online and now have five new tenants renting my apartments” Cecilia said.

Her confidence has grown as a businesswoman.

The training has also enabled her to connect with other women SME owners. The sharing of ideas and approaches to managing various challenges from others has greatly helped Cecilia with her business.

CEFI continued to track her progress. In early 2022, Cecilia was one of five (5) women entrepreneurs that benefited from debt counseling from Mi Bank initiated by CEFI.

This determined businesswoman is also the President of the Lenoke Women’s Association (LWA) of South Bougainville where she is from.

As her understanding of finance and business management increased, she began to see the importance of financial literacy and desired it for her people.

In collaboration with Mi Bank, Cecilia organised for agents to visit her village in May 2022 enabling 73 people in Lenoke to open bank accounts. Those who had mobile phones also activated mobile banking services after opening an account. This was the first time for people in her village to have access to such bank services this easily.

LWA posted on its Facebook Page in May 2022.

“Banking the unbanked…. 95% of the people in Lenoke have never been to a bank. The sheer thought of standing in long queues for hours, to be sent home every day for a week until full requirements are met is a hindrance. Cash is safely tucked into a secret space of their thatched roof until a fire guts the bush material hut. Sending their money straight into the bank is revolutionary”.

LWA is now Mi Bank’s agent serving the South Bougainville area to open more personal savings accounts.

Apart from growing her business, Cecilia now wants to partner with CEFI to expand financial literacy in her Lenoke constituency. She wants her people to receive virtually retail financial literacy training as she did.

Embracing innovation is having a ripple effect on finance inclusion expansion.

Impact Stories

Impact Story 1 – Belinda Bakani

Belinda Bakani, hailing from Milne Bay and Central provinces, operates Classic Auto Services Ltd. alongside her partner from their residence in Korobosea, Port Moresby.

In 2021, after working at PNG Ports Corporation for 10 years, Belinda developed a keen interest in the automotive industry, although it wasn’t part of her initial plan. Initially resigning to pursue a career change, she decided to work with her partner while awaiting responses to job applications. Belinda took on a management role in the business her partner had established two years earlier.

Her responsibilities within the business primarily revolve around administration, finance, customer service, and marketing, while her partner handles the technical aspects with the assistance of other employees.

Belinda first learned about the online trainings offered by CEFI through her sister-in-law, Susan Bakani, who had also benefited from them. Upon discovering that Belinda had left her job to run the business with her partner, Susan advised her to get in touch with CEFI. Susan informed Belinda about the various training programs provided by CEFI to support women in the SME sector, enabling them to enhance and expand their businesses. Recognizing her relative newness to the business sector, Belinda found the motivation to register for and attend CEFI’s online training sessions in 2021.

Before participating in CEFI’s online trainings, Belinda had previously received training focused solely on Customer Care Services during her educational pursuits.

In July 2021, Belinda was among the 45 women in SMEs who attended the LedgerPal Training. The online training comprised three modules: Digital Financial Literacy, Business Planning & Debt Management, and E-Commerce. After completing the training, Belinda observed significant improvements in various areas:

  • Saving and reducing expenses by making informed spending decisions.
  • Enhancing budgeting skills through improved calculations and financial management.
  • Better business and financial management, expanding her knowledge in this domain.
  • Advancing marketing skills.
  • Learning from shared experiences with other WSMEs, exchanging challenges and ideas and establishing a network with like-minded individuals.

Belinda expresses gratitude for the opportunity to learn more about e-commerce. The training greatly aided her marketing and branding efforts for Classic Auto Services Ltd. She particularly utilized the Canva App, which was introduced during the training, to create a flyer to advertise for auto mechanics. This led to the successful recruitment of two young employees. At the end of 2021, Belinda utilized the same application to create a flyer offering a 10% discount on services, resulting in over 20 clients bringing their vehicles to her for servicing. The e-commerce training played a crucial role in her marketing activities as a beginner.

Belinda encourages young WSMEs, as well as existing ones, to attend the training programs offered by CEFI.

Building on her existing Certificate in General Business Administration, she took on secretarial duties for the business. Over time, she recognized the significant role she played in supporting Classic Auto Services Ltd and decided to focus her efforts accordingly. The online training programs conducted by CEFI provided valuable opportunities for Belinda to acquire skills that she could directly apply in the business.

At present, the business is thriving, thanks to Belinda’s enhanced marketing skills, which have expanded Classic Auto Services Ltd’s marketing reach. She now sends out at least 20 quotations and invoices to clients on a weekly basis. The e-commerce training has played a pivotal role in elevating their business’s visibility and public presence.

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