Taking the Samoan market to New Zealand

Lance Polu

, Business, Economy, Local

By Tupuola Terry Tavita*

AUCKLAND: 23 SEPTEMBER 2012: ANZ commercial and corporate manager Bernie Poort hit it on the head this week stating that what Samoa sorely needs is new money.

That it needs new industry and foreign investors to bring new money into the economy.

“We can talk about a range of sectors existing in Samoa, but what we need is new players, new industries, new ideas that generates foreign exchange in the country.”

He also told the capacity crowd who turned up to the InvestSamoa conference at the Pullman Hotel that these are exciting times for Samoa. That the country had huge investment and commercial potential and opportunity just waiting for interested investors to explore.

Which is exactly what the InvestSamoa conference this week is all about.

It is going over to New Zealand – Auckland in particular – and enticing potential investors to come invest their money here.

For years, the private sector has vocally complained about the lack of commercial prosperity to tap into. This week, many of our business people who made the trip to New Zealand were able to meet and network with their counterparts in Auckland under one roof. Establishing business contacts and exploring possible partnerships and business ventures, which, under normal circumstances they would not have been able to.

Samoa’s accession to the World Trade Organisation and being party to several free trade agreements facilitates these potential partnerships.

Key to the success of these partnerships and possible foreign investment, is being transparent and having the business confidence in the systems in place in Samoa.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labor was on hand to explain to them how you can go about setting up your business in Samoa and the labour laws that exist in the country.

The Office of the Attorney General was there to canvass Samoa’s land reform legislations, land  tenure and the recently-passed strata title laws. Deputy AG Papalii Malietau Malietoa also briefed the audience on what to expect when seeking a land lease.

If there is ever a silver bullet to sustain Samoa’s economy, it is tourism.

Tourism chief executive Papalii Sonja Hunter introduced the audience to all that is on offer in the tourism sector. From flight schedules to tourism numbers, hotel occupancy, viable tourism-related projects and the warmth and hospitality of its Samoan hosts. Most of the New Zealand business people who turned up at Pullmans have only heard of Samoa but had no idea what business opportunities existed there.

An introductory video clip highlighting Samoa’s capital, the modern infrastructure in place, the tax structure and stunning views of the countryside was received with oohs and aahs from the capacity audience. In fact, so many people turned up that they had to take two conference official photographs as they could not fit them all in one picture.

Government’s broad vision after all is making tourism the catalyst of economic development. Generating business for the private sector and a ready market for agriculture, farming, fishing and village-based  production. The answer to rural development and employment.

For those interested in agriculture and fisheries development and manufacturing, chief executives Fonoiava Sealii Sesega and Tilafono David Hunter presented on ongoing sector policies, programmes and the myriad of business opportunities in Samoa as well as some enterprising ventures into organic farming, bio-fuel development and market research and development in food production and processing.

Chief executive Taulealeausumai Laavasa Malua reflected on Samoa’s environment protection and sustainable development policies, planning and urban management as well as Samoa’s climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes.

The experience and challenges of doing business in Samoa was shared by Yazaki Samoa EDS general manager Funefeai Oliva Vaai. In fact, it was a similar trade mission to this one that brought Yazaki – the largest private sector employer in the country – to Samoa back in the early 1990s.  Scores of Auckland business men packed into a session on two new hotel and resort projects in Samoa.

Jim Gilchrist who is building a hotel at Return to Paradise Beach at Lefaga praised good relations with government and village landowners as integral to getting his project off the ground. Tupaisina Jesse James of the Samoa Village Resort’s US$220 million project at Sasina in Savaii reiterated his commitment to see his project through, despite some hurdles he has encountered.

The point of the whole exercise is government – and the private sector with assistance from the newly-established New

Zealand-Samoa Trade Commission – going out there and marketing Samoa to potential overseas investors. Neighbours Fiji and the Cook Islands also hold similar similar investment conferences in New Zealand and Australia and are also just as aggressive in marketing their countries and destinations. Samoa can’t afford to sit on its laurels and wait for investors to turn up here. It just wont happen.

And as trade missions go, it’s a hit and miss exercise that requires a lot of wait and see. If two or three – or even ten, if we could wish – investors decide to invest in Samoa following this conference, then it has been worthwhile. Because at the end of the day, who actually benefits from their investment?

It is the village communities, the private sector, government through taxation. Everybody.

*Tupuola Terry Tavita is the Editor of the Government newspaper Savali