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Ethnic businesses deserve better treatment

Ethnic businesses, especially Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) deserve support and despite their strong commitment and progress, they are often ignored, Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collin said.

In a hard-hitting speech at the opening session of a Business Forum organised by the Wellington based Federation of Multicultural Councils on March 8, 2014, she said that apart from under-reporting in the main stream media, proper recognition is not being given to SMEs in the country.

“All ethnic communities are under-represented everywhere in New Zealand. These communities emphasise the importance of education for their children and demonstrate progressive leadership. It is therefore important to encourage them,” she said.

Women on boards

Reiterating her earlier stand, Ms Collins said that she would like to see more women on the boards of Government organisations, agencies and bodies, especially those from the ethnic communities.

“We have highly educated women who have proved that they are successful entrepreneurs and yet we find only ‘whites’ on the boards of most organisations. I would like more and more ethnic women to nominate their names to various organisations. We can call ourselves a progressive nation only if everyone is given an equal opportunity to participate in the decision-making process,” she said.

More than 60 people representing Asian, African and Pacific Islands ethnicities attended the Forum held under the theme, “Understanding Each Other: Small & Medium Ethnic Enterprises: Government & Business’ held at the Sir Paul Reeves Building of the AUT University in Auckland City.

Council initiatives

Mayor Len Brown, who joined the Forum briefly, said that SMEs were the backbone of the Auckland economy and that the Auckland Council was considering ways and means of supporting them.

“We are working on a number of initiatives and we hope to announce something soon,” he said, without giving details.

Among the other speakers were Ethnic Affairs Office Director Berlinda Chin, Federation Acting President Priyani de Silva-Currie, University of Auckland Research student Olufemi Omisanki, WAML Group Chairman & Managing Director Wenceslaus Anthony, IT recruitment consultant Maria Poole, Canterbury Business Association Chief Executive Taz Mukurombindo, Former Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin and the editor of this newspaper.

Dr Camille Nakhid, Immediate Past President and Chairperson of the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel of the Auckland Council facilitated the Forum and was also the Master of Ceremonies.

Overcoming challenges

In her presentation, Ms De Silva-Currie highlighted the challenges experienced by SMEs owned and operated by ethnic communities and suggested ways and means of overcoming them. Indian Newslink hopes to publish a separate report in an ensuing issue.

In an interview published in Manawatu Herald on March 5, she said that New Zealand has a bicultural community and that making a move to multiculturalism would be a major step.


Growing multiculturalism

“In the next 30 years, New Zealand must address it because the population of Asians, Africans and Chinese, in fact the entire migrant population would account for more than 30% of the country’s demographics, those that descend from somewhere else. That is one in three persons,” she said.

Ms De Silva-Currie said that there was a need to understand that many people from other countries fear the legal system and government agencies because of experiences in their countries of origin.

“There is also a need to deal with migrants’ perspectives,” she said.

Expertise lacking

Earlier in his speech, Auckland Regional Ethnic Council President Cecil Lochan said that SMEs owned by ethnic people face adversities and barriers.

“They are limited in making progress because of a lack of expertise at managerial level. They need education and training which they cannot afford. These SMEs are like a coiled spring. Once given the required training, they can spring up, enhance their business and contribute more for the economy,” he said.

Significant partners

Federation Executive Director Tayo Agunlejika told Indian Newslink that SMEs employing up to 20 persons are an important part of the New Zealand economy, accounting for 97.2% of all businesses and 30.2% of all employees in the country, contributing 27.8% of our GDP.

“Entrepreneurship is seen as a solution to alleviate the high rate of unemployment among new migrants. Ethnic SMEs contribute significantly to Auckland’s growth and wellbeing. However, these business owners are less likely to use public sector business support than other mainstream enterprises,” he said. *

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