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Developing business capability in the Pacific Islands

20 July 2022

Market Development Facility (MDF) is a multi-country initiative which promotes sustainable economic development in partner countries. University of Auckland alumna Carline Bentley is supporting the organisation’s mission through her role as a Business Advisor in Fiji for MDF’s High Value Agriculture team.

Fiji’s main commodities in agriculture for foreign markets include kava, dalo, turmeric, and ginger. Value adding, resulting in premium products, has been identified as an immense opportunity for Fijian farmers and businesses. 

Bentley says A typical work day for me can range from meetings with private sector organisations with interests in agriculture, to discussions with farmers in rural and remote regions. We collaborate with businesses to improve farmers’ access to quality agricultural inputs and markets, with a goal of increasing their yield and income and improving their livelihoods. I enjoy brainstorming with my team on how we can work with a potential private sector partner for the benefit of local farmers.”

Bentley participated in the Summer Lab entrepreneurship development programme run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) when she was at university, studying towards her Master of Commerce in Economics. She says that the lasting impact of the programme was developing an entrepreneurial mindset and learning to pivot. 

“Those lessons still hold true. I believe it is more important than ever to remember that failure is part of the process. Truly understanding what part of an implemented business model does not work and making necessary adjustments is a critical part of success.”

In Fiji, MDF works in the key sectors of agriculture and tourism to improve their resilience and competitiveness and has recently expanded to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) business development services and into the emergent outsourced services sub-sector.

Bentley says that the Outsourcing Services Industry received a strong push during COVID, and is being further explored. “Fiji has been involved in outsourcing for a few years, but it has really taken off in the last couple of years as there has been a greater emphasis on the need for companies, particularly in Australia, to look closer to home for their outsourcing needs, as part of their risk diversification strategy.

MDF currently operates in Fiji, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. With support from the Australian and New Zealand Governments, they are currently exploring opportunities in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Some of their initial work in the Pacific is focused on ICT and agriculture, including supporting uptake of mobile wallets for receiving remittances in Vanuatu, and working on increasing access to mechanisation for farmers in Samoa. Overall, key focus areas will be agriculture, climate change adaptation and migration, transport and logistics, business development services, information communication technology and women’s economic empowerment.

Bentley says “MDF places a high priority on empowering women and girls because they account for roughly half of the population and have traditionally been overlooked in economic development. In Fiji, women are entrepreneurs and vital participants of the economy. So, if we’re pursuing a robust post-COVID recovery, women’s economic empowerment is a must.”

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

20 July 2022

Market Development Facility (MDF) is a multi-country initiative which promotes sustainable economic development in partner countries. University of Auckland alumna Carline Bentley is supporting the organisation’s mission through her role as a Business Advisor in Fiji for MDF’s High Value Agriculture team.

Fiji’s main commodities in agriculture for foreign markets include kava, dalo, turmeric, and ginger. Value adding, resulting in premium products, has been identified as an immense opportunity for Fijian farmers and businesses. 

Bentley says A typical work day for me can range from meetings with private sector organisations with interests in agriculture, to discussions with farmers in rural and remote regions. We collaborate with businesses to improve farmers’ access to quality agricultural inputs and markets, with a goal of increasing their yield and income and improving their livelihoods. I enjoy brainstorming with my team on how we can work with a potential private sector partner for the benefit of local farmers.”

Bentley participated in the Summer Lab entrepreneurship development programme run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) when she was at university, studying towards her Master of Commerce in Economics. She says that the lasting impact of the programme was developing an entrepreneurial mindset and learning to pivot. 

“Those lessons still hold true. I believe it is more important than ever to remember that failure is part of the process. Truly understanding what part of an implemented business model does not work and making necessary adjustments is a critical part of success.”

In Fiji, MDF works in the key sectors of agriculture and tourism to improve their resilience and competitiveness and has recently expanded to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) business development services and into the emergent outsourced services sub-sector.

Bentley says that the Outsourcing Services Industry received a strong push during COVID, and is being further explored. “Fiji has been involved in outsourcing for a few years, but it has really taken off in the last couple of years as there has been a greater emphasis on the need for companies, particularly in Australia, to look closer to home for their outsourcing needs, as part of their risk diversification strategy.

MDF currently operates in Fiji, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. With support from the Australian and New Zealand Governments, they are currently exploring opportunities in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Some of their initial work in the Pacific is focused on ICT and agriculture, including supporting uptake of mobile wallets for receiving remittances in Vanuatu, and working on increasing access to mechanisation for farmers in Samoa. Overall, key focus areas will be agriculture, climate change adaptation and migration, transport and logistics, business development services, information communication technology and women’s economic empowerment.

Bentley says “MDF places a high priority on empowering women and girls because they account for roughly half of the population and have traditionally been overlooked in economic development. In Fiji, women are entrepreneurs and vital participants of the economy. So, if we’re pursuing a robust post-COVID recovery, women’s economic empowerment is a must.”


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