In February 2014, four countries – Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu – commenced with a pilot clustering initiative, the first ever for the Pacific islands region. This pilot project has since concluded and a review workshop is to be held on the 11 & 12 August 2014 in Nadi, Fiji, to assess the project work to date.
The workshop brings together the pilot teams from the four countries, national private sector organisation representatives and development partners. The workshop is to hear from the pilot and PIPSO teams who have been working on the cluster initiatives and to share learning’s of the pilots in the countries, including the challenges and how these have been addressed, and their plans through a forward agenda.
The initiative, funded by the European Union’s Business Climate Facility (BizClim) through the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) amounted to €932,000, which equates to about FJD$2.4m for the 4 countries.
The pilot activities were in the coconut industry (Samoa); on a generic country branding (Tonga); Information and Communication Technologies (Papua New Guinea); and cruise tourism (Vanuatu).
The project implementation involved in-country workshops bringing stakeholders together to identify priorities, establish an interim cluster team led by business, and agreeing on a forward agenda. The country workshops brought businesses together, as well as representatives from government and academia (from local technical colleges and universities). This provided a platform for businesses in the clustering sectors, to highlight challenges to collectively present this to government and academia. It was also an opportunity to bring businesses together to dialogue and explore opportunities to collaborate, recognising that ‘clustering’ presents opportunities to work with competitors, suppliers and others along a value chain.
PIPSO Project Team Leader, Ifor Ffowcs-Williams said, “every EU country is already well engaged on cluster development, and now for the first time this successful route to economic development is being introduced in the Pacific.” He added, “the clustering initiatives are successfully building on each country’s strengths and this is coming together through a cluster team, led by a chair who is a senior businessperson in the community. These teams have very quickly identified their forward agendas which is most encouraging to see and we hope will further their business growth.”
The project, in the larger scheme of things, is intended to create opportunities for businesses along the value chain to realise their potential. This will also have positive impacts on the growth of individual businesses and industries as clusters provide that platform for increased productivity and efficiency. Funded by the European Union
Mereia Volavola, CEO of PIPSO said, “the project has been a very interesting one for PIPSO working with the cluster teams to harness the business opportunities at national level and increase their growth potential. The clusters in ICTs, coconuts for example are those that can be replicated in other Pacific economies, or other clusters can be explored, in agriculture or culture and the creative industries.” Furthermore, she added that ICT cluster is very important and something that each country should consider in order to increase innovation and use technology to build businesses. Mereia stated, “this has been a pilot project but we fervently hope to generate greater interest and support so that it may be taken to other Pacific economies and to other sectors.”