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  • The Representatives, UNDP, ILO & USP
  • Our Sponsors/Donors
  • Youth Co-Lab Organising Committee
  • Distinguished Speakers
  • Youth Representatives,
  • Government Officials
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Ni Sa Yadra, Namaste, Noa’ia e mauri and a very Good Morning to all.

It is indeed a privilege for me to be here this morning to officially launch the nation’s first-ever Youth Co Lab initiative.

Today over 20 local youth entrepreneurs from various backgrounds, have gathered to pioneer discussions aimed at realizing the objectives of the event which is conveyed in the theme - ‘The Hunt for SDG-based Inclusive Innovative Solutions’.

Four years ago, the ministry met with the Commonwealth Director - Ms Katherine Ellis and had discussed youth entrepreneurship and its entailing benefits for young people through empowerment and development.

Such an initiative represents empowerment and development, with its known objectives aimed to:
  • Foster dialogue between youth, government, private sector, academia and other stakeholders in order to identify priority issues and actions for development of the innovation and entrepreneurial eco-system;
  • Encourage and empower young leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to design and implement their ideas and business models;
  • Accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Fiji through collaboration and support for social innovations.

Our nation’s 5-Year & 20-Year National Development plan, has clearly pointed out that Fiji’s population is relatively young, with 62 percent of the population below the age of 35 years old.

With such an initiative in place, youths are targeted more inclusively and effectively in the economy, society and the political sphere, which will effectually, stimulate growth and development for the nation.
This joint initiative by the UNDP & the USP is in line with the nation’s development 5-year plan aimed to strengthen initiatives for training, empowerment and awareness programmes for youth in areas such as ‘entrepreneurship’, which encourages self-employment opportunities and entrepreneurial skills development.

The ministry will therefore, continue to ensure that educational, employment and leadership opportunities and avenues of this nature are established and offered to young developing Fijians because the job market is very competitive, potentially unfair and skills mismatch and lack of training are still issues, which when combined, are the main reasons for youth unemployment in the country.

The Government of Fiji continues to:
  • Work towards addressing shortages in technical and vocational, managerial and professional skills as well as entrepreneurial and general workplace skills, by offering decentralized technical and vocational training to the youths of Fiji who can eventually access the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme.
  • Support the establishment of Medium and Small-to-Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for rural and urban youth, which aims to create self-employment opportunities and develop entrepreneurial skills.
  • Provide the “one-stop shop” service via its National Employment Centre to assist employment seekers to find jobs.
  • Empower youth and encourage their participation in national policy development such as the International Youth Exchange Programme, National Youth Conference and Youth Parliament initiative.

A key vessel that the Fijian government uses to drive development is partnership in the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme or ‘YES’ for short. The primary objective of ‘YES’ is to provide immediate assistance in the form of grants to young and budding entrepreneurs who have innovative and bankable ideas or projects which financial institutions are not willing to support due to lack of collateral.

This will partly address the market failure where financial institutions are reluctant to provide start-up capital to young entrepreneurs. Successful young aspiring entrepreneurs will then be provided business training and mentorship to enable them to operate financially viable businesses.

Nonetheless another classic example of how partnership can push governments youth development agenda is the Youth Co: Lab which aims to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship by using a multi-sectoral approach.

For the next three days, you the twenty (20) youth participating entrepreneurs will be provided with a space to network with key stakeholders in order provide them with a clearer picture on giving innovative SDG-based inclusive solutions.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of you participating young men and women.

I now positively challenge the participants, mentors, influential stakeholders, potential donors - to capitalize on this opportunity to constructively network and drive this economy forward as effective and innovative partners in this business for the greater good and sustainability of this nation now, and for the future generations to come.

At this juncture, I wish to express my appreciation to the UNDP and the USP - for venturing in this ‘positive move’ towards national partnership and development.
To all parties involved in this pioneering event, I wish you all a very memorable, productive and constructive three days’ workshop.

I, shall now officially declare the Youth Co: Lab programme in Fiji - open.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Faieksia & Thank You

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