Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Pacific Islands are challenged by limited access to reliable business advice and services. Business advisory services are underutilized, and ad hoc practices on critical areas such as accounting, marketing, or human resources, often result in low levels of growth and restricted access to market opportunities. In particular, SMEs struggle to take advantage of lending opportunities due to poor management practices, such as lack of record-keeping and planning. Business informality and poor practices in the SME sector have significant repercussions on these small economies where, on average, SMEs represent 90% of the private sector.
BLP follows a market system approach, focusing on supporting small and medium-sized businesses to improve and become more resilient by engaging local business service providers. Improved business practices increase the businesses’ position to take on new opportunities, leverage financial services, increase employment, and formally support the economic development of Pacific island economies.
In the first three years of implementation, the programme has delivered in three key areas:
- Created the Business Link Pacific Portal, a unified online presence that increases the visibility of business services on offer from Pacific Island countries and facilitates connections between service providers and new SME clients.
- Established a quality assurance process for business service providers based on evidence of competencies and supported by a professional development programme in the areas of accounting, finance, advertising, marketing, HR, export promotion, market linkages, and more.
- Unified more than 98 local business service providers within a quality assured regional network, which has supported the growth of this local market.
BLP functions as the facilitator and matchmaker between SMEs and business advisors through a set of Essential Business Tools designed to assess business needs. The BLP Business Health Check and the Continuity Planner enable businesses to determine their needs based on their context. The Health Check investigates general aspects of the SME while The Continuity Planner scans the business from a resilience perspective. The Business Essential Tools are housed on the BLP Portal, a Pacific-tailored online platform that showcases a directory of business advisors and enables interested SMEs to search and connect to BLP approved providers.
BLP has a set of market-enabling strategies designed to mitigate entry-level risks and incentivize SMEs to engage with advisors. BLP offers a subsidy scheme that is designed to make services more affordable, minimize risks and introduce growing businesses to reliable and quality services. Growing businesses can apply for a subsidy through any BLP-approved business advisor.
Business Link Pacific is securing long-term sustainability by working closely with industry bodies, such as Chambers of Commerce, so that the tools and networks created remain relevant to the local market after the programme concludes.
OUR GOALS AND RESULTS
Since 2017, BLP has:
- Engaged and quality-approved 98 business advisory providers across the region, providing services in areas such as accounting, human resources, export promotion, and marketing.
- Supported the creation of over 220 new jobs, 49% filled by women.
- Supported over 550 SMEs to access subsidized business advice, including 188 COVID-19 impacted businesses.
- Facilitated NZD 3.37M in business advisory services, leveraging NZD 1.59M from Pacific business clients.
- Increased and strengthened local partnerships by working closely with chambers of commerce, financial institutions, gender equality and social inclusion organizations, and the private sector.
- Created a suite of online Business Essential Tools and a dedicated online portal to support the development of the market for business advice in the Pacific Islands. These tools are available to the region and can be easily scaled up to new countries.
- Developed a brand name for business advice in each country that operates through social and local media and is supported by a regional business community of over 23,000 followers.
- Conducted more than 1,600 Business Health Checks and Continuity Planners across the six counties where it operates.