Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Business Volunteers, Ms. Liz Mackinlay,
Acting Country Head of BSP Fiji, Mr. Maikash Ali,
Government Stakeholders,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
Private Sector Partners,
MSME Champions,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I am honored to be here amongst champions, collaborators and loyal members of our vibrant MSME sector – and I thank the BSP Financial Group Ltd (BSP) for the invitation.

Today’s launch of the Joint 2023 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Program between the BSP Financial Group Ltd and the Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) is the genesis of opportunities for our MSMEs.

And as the Minister responsible for MSMEs, I am elated to witness the strides made by the private sector such as BSP in developing initiatives and programs for our MSMEs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I therefore, wish to convey my sincere appreciation to the ABV for coming onboard with skilled business professionals to guide through professional financial advice, training, coaching and mentoring to help the MSMEs achieve their business goals. We hope that you are able to continue this partnership beyond this cohort, as there is great demand for this type of service outside of Suva, Lautoka and Nadi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am told that from the first group of MSMEs to benefit from this program 75% were women entrepreneurs representing a wide array of sectors, ranging from small retail convenience shops, beauty & fashion, medical services, online shops, vehicle repair and tourism. These are investments from the private sector that the Government seeks to foster in Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all have an equal part to play in rebuilding Fiji and I am so proud of my team at the Ministry, for conducting over 326 business training since 2014 to have a great understanding of the hand-holding and support our MSMEs really need.

My team, in any case, would be happy to provide this support and guidance should you require them – because it is our job, as servants of the people of Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Business development services are important because is assists entrepreneurs to run their business more effectively and, if appropriately applied, can act as an enhancer of access to finance and as an alternative form of “collateral” in circumstances where tangible collateral may be an impediment to meeting traditional security requirements.

Furthermore, it aims to equip our MSMEs with the necessary skills and impart business practices for sustainable operations. I am sure these MSMEs will also look to network with each other and share ideas on how to overcome common challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Access to finance is another key challenge for many MSMEs. Therefore, it is fitting to see a financial institution taking a lead role in development of MSMEs through such initiatives which will ultimately build them to access finance for their business.

Just recently, the Fiji Development Bank launched the online Financial Literacy tool which is a collaborative effort with Visa to educate our people on financial management in order to help them learn the basics of starting a business, managing it efficiently and eventually taking it to the next level.

Through this digital program, people are empowered to unlock the fundamentals of financial management, so that they are able to make informed financial decisions and run their business efficiently and sustainably in the long run.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
My message to the participants of the development program – is to strive towards achieving exponential commercial independence and entrepreneurial growth. This is your opportunity to learn and apply the knowledge which is imparted to you.

Step out of your comfort zone, network amongst each other and do not be afraid to ask the difficult questions.

You as the MSMEs are critical to Fiji’s economy – your growth is the country’s growth.

With these few words, I would like to officially launch Fiji THRIVE; Banking on Local Businesses, Helping Fiji Grow and thank BSP and the Australian Business Volunteers for giving our MSMEs this golden opportunity.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you.