The chairperson of the Fiji Arts Council Mr. Igelese Ete 
The Director Department of Heritage and Arts Mr Collin Yabaki 
Staff of the Fiji Arts Council and Department of Heritage & Arts. 
Artisans from the different art forms 
Invited guests 
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ni sa bula vinaka, As-salam Alaikum, and a very good morning to you all. Thank you for the warm welcome and I am indeed delighted to officiate at the opening of this annual inaugural entrepreneurship workshop organized by the Fiji Arts Council in collaboration with the Department of Heritage and Arts. 

This workshop is part of the Fiji Arts Councils Strategy in addressing gaps identified following the Fijian made Fijian crafted initiative by Government since some of our artesian have now entered into the business world due to the increasing demand in the quality of their artifacts.

Let me begin by thanking you all for your presence here this morning. I am impressed to see a large number of our artistic practitioners here today. Which includes some crafts people, visual artists, performing artists and designers. Your presence this morning is an indication of your willingness to learn more and to improve your knowledge and skills in the area of entrepreneurship. 

Entrepreneurship as defined “the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses.

Entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking, and is an essential part of a nation's ability to succeed in an ever changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace”

Thank you Fiji Arts Council and Department of Heritage and Arts for this initiative as it complements the overall objectives of the government which includes the building of knowledge based society and promoting self-generating initiatives to enhance well-being and livelihood of young people, women, families and communities. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I also want to commend the work that has been undertaken by Fiji Arts Council over the years in providing the support and mentoring services to the artisans. Today as I speak, 350 artisans are holders of the Fijian Made, Fijian Crafted License with the total of 63.5% of the total registered artisans being members with the Fiji Arts Council. 

Ladies and Gentleman our Ministry has redefined its mission statement to make it more relevant and practical “to ensure equitable access to quality education for all its citizen so that their potential is fully realized and to assist in the development of responsible citizen who are disciplined industrious creative and confident and who can function effectively in a modern society”.

Government will work towards developing frameworks and effective policies that will further enhance the cultural sector. Budgetary provisions will ensure that artists such as yourselves continue to thrive in the work that you do thus contributing to economic sustainability and empowerment. 

The Fijian Government, in partnership with MaiLife magazine has recognized a group of 30 winners who were the very best of the best that Fiji’s young people have to offer. The 30 under 30 faces of Fiji’s future recognizes the rising stars in Fiji, and they were awarded at the Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting in Nadi earlier this month as party of government’s initiative for our young entrepreneurs.

We will continue to collaborate with statutory bodies such as the Fiji Arts Council through the Department of Heritage and Arts to deliver key deliverables that contributes to economic growth of the country. I am adamant that cultural agencies will continue to collaborate in activities that contains sustainable programmes for the benefit of all Fijians. 

On that note, the Government provides the cultural sector with an annual grant of $133,000 to assist artists further their talent. The cultural sector has untapped potential to create employment opportunities, reduce poverty, enhance well-being and livelihood, minimize social problems such as juvenile delinquency, and reduce disparity in earning power of our women.

Ladies and gentleman, it has always been Government’s intention that its citizens regardless of race, creed or circumstances, be supported to achieve their full potential. The Government had therefore adopted a strategy that “no one should be left behind” in –as far as the provision of government services to every citizen is concerned. We should progress together as a nation. 

I am so glad to learn the implications of this workshop on the development of small and micro enterprise development. The upcoming western and northern workshops will alleviate some of the government concerns on unemployment and poverty reduction while at the same time generating income and enhancing small and medium term enterprises. The government recognizes that small businesses are vital contributors to the health of the economy. Small businesses boost productivity, increases competition and innovation, creates employment and prosperity and revitalize our communities. 

Resources are being allocated by government to assist you through agencies such as the Department of Heritage and Arts, National Center for Small and Micro Enterprise, the Northern Development Program, Fiji Development Bank, and other active initiatives that the government has set for you. We are also grateful to the support shown by the private sector and NGOs to help boost economic activities in the culture sector. 

Having said that, I wish to make a plea to the practitioners here today: please prepare yourselves to be challenged, and inspired during this three (3) day workshop. You should entice yourselves with an attitude to learn new things. Listen attentively to the presenters! They are here to help you. Do not let this opportunity pass! 

I know you have been chosen by the Fiji Arts Council not only because you are recipient of the Fijian Crafted license or as a member or by other means, do note that you are chosen because you have demonstrated that you have the passion and the attributes needed to excel in this area. Remember there are many definitions of success but there is one thing all the greats agree on “success only comes by persevering despite failure”. 

I trust that you will take heed of the advice and the new knowledge and skills that will be imparted to you in these three day workshop but my advice is not to be discouraged when you face obstacles on the way. You have to turn those obstacles into opportunities. I leave you with a famous quote from the great statesman and a leader, Mr. Nelson Mandela;
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do”.

With these words, I wish you all a very fruitful and well-endowed three days interactions and talanoa.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.