Young entrepreneurs council launched in the Pacific

The Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) launches the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC)

News | 25 June 2016
Grant agreement signing ceremony
The Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation has established its eighth council, the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), in an effort to have the voice of young people heard. This council is envisaged to develop into a national advocacy and technical council under the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) that builds the evidence base and engages with policy and legislative decision makers to effect policy change and support employment aspirations of its members and potential young entrepreneurs.

In launching the council, the chief guest, the Attorney General, Minister for Finance, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum welcomed this new initiative and thanked FCEF and ILO. He stated that this was aligned with the recent government budget announcement which provided incentives to employers to hire young people and promoted young people to venture into business.

Through ILO technical support and funding, FCEC hired a local consultant and young entrepreneur to support the architecture to establish YEC, in consultation with FCEF and in line with the established guidelines for FCEF’s other councils. These included developing a TOR, advocacy, registration of young entrepreneurs and supporting election of YEC executives. 

“Building the evidence base will be the corner stone of YEC’s technical capacity. Just being young people, does not make a case that we are special and therefore must be assisted. Through research and real life experiences of our members, we young people, want to demonstrate that as entrepreneurs, as business owners, as employers, we currently contribute to the economy and if incentivized and certain barriers reduced, we could do more and in the future, more of us could do the same”, said Mr Shivam Reddy, the elected and first Chair of YEC and owner of an IT company.

Celebrating the launch
Just prior to the launch and during the new council’s AGM, Mr Himen Chandra, the President of FCEF and Mr Nesbit Hazelman the CEO of FCEF engaged with the young entrepreneurs on the role of FCEF and through a Question & Answer session. Mr Chandra highlighted his experience when he joined FCEF as a young entrepreneur and challenges that existed for him and provided advice on how YEC could be more valuable to its members. A video produced by the consulted and showcased at the launch not only highlighted the challenges faced by these young entrepreneurs, including the effects of the recent category 5 cyclone to youth enterprises but also based on the current YEC membership, 150 people were directly employed by them.

Mr Satoshi Sasaki, the Officer-in-Charge for ILO Office for the Pacific Island Countries said “This initiative provides young entrepreneurs with a national platform, via FCEF’s membership in the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB). In addition, the interface and mentoring YEC members will received from 7 other established industry councils will be very valuable.” During the launch, the ILO also signed a Grant Agreement with FCEF and YEC to support the delivery of 21 outputs to operationalize YEC for a period of 12months. Some of the outputs included recommendations for policy and legislation amendments, strengthening its internal governance, facilitating access to business development services and market places and extending its membership to include young people in business who reside in rural areas and outer islands, young mothers and persons with disabilities.

The elected Vice-Chair of YEC, Ms Moira Solvalu-John, who owns a fashion brand and retail outlet, said that the opportunity for the members to directly engage with senior government officials and private sector reps at the launch demonstrated exactly an example of what YEC can provide young entrepreneurs.

This initiative was an ACTEMP and ILO Pacific Office partnership that supports employer’s activities, youth employment, crisis response and informality to formality. ILO plans to replicate this model in other employer organizations in the Pacific.