AS part of its vision for a vibrant private sector, leading to better lives for the people of Solomon Islands, the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) foresees the importance of encouraging young people to take up entrepreneurship and be part of this vision going forward into the future.
To engage with young people, SICCI in partnership with the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) through the Ministry of Women Youth and Children Affairs (MWYCA) has invested in the soon to be launched Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), set up under the auspices of SICCI and established to represent current and aspiring young entrepreneurs in the Solomon Islands.
SICCI recently appointed a new YEC Coordinator, Mr John Wopereis, who will lead the Council’s mandate to encourage and empower young Solomon Islanders to become successful entrepreneurs.
As YEC Coordinator, Wopereis’ role is to help drive a reform agenda aimed at unlocking legislative and policy constraints that are holding back opportunities for young Solomon Islanders. YEC will also facilitate support services to entrepreneurs undertaking mentoring and coaching, business planning and targeted business training.
“The purpose of YEC is to develop into a national advocacy and technical council under SICCI, that provide a platform (and a voice) for young entrepreneurs to creatively engage with policy makers to effect positive change aimed at prompting business and employment aspirations of current and future young entrepreneurs,” Wopereis said.
The motivation and drive behind Wopereis’ determination to lead YEC to achieve its purpose comes from the reality of youth unemployment in the Solomon Islands.
“There is no denying that unemployment among youths and young people is an issue of concern for the country and the fact that the youth population is also high. Young people struggle to find jobs and according to official figures 17,000 to 18,000 people seek job each year with only around 4000 jobs available,” Mr Wopereis explains.
He said the country needs to create more jobs for its young population and be innovative highlighting YEC as a platform for our young, talented and aspiring entrepreneurs to access services to transform innovative ideas into successful business opportunities while in turn creating needed jobs going into the future.
“The aim is to encourage young people start their own businesses by providing and facilitating the required support services and training and it is up to those young people who will become members of YEC to make use of these support services and trainings,” said Wopereis.
As a youth himself, Wopereis understand the challenges and the big task that lies ahead.
“In reality, we the youths, we are the majority; we are capable of doing good things that can have a big positive effect on this country. We are the risk takers, the innovators, we have the energy to affect change and we have more time. All we need is the right platform and support and SICCI through YEC provides that platform and support,” he added.
While encouraging young people to utilize the opportunities the YEC program provides, Wopereis assures that YEC will play its role in advocating on the challenges faced by young people in starting and operating a business.
SICCI CEO, Dennis Meone is optimistic about YEC and acknowledged the strong support of the Solomon Islands Government through MWYCFA in collaborating with SICCI and investing in YEC.
“It’s a collective responsibility that requires support and partnership from stakeholders and the establishment of YEC is a testament of the vison of the government and private sector to assist young people in business,” says Meone.
“Already we have seen many platforms for youths and young people which is really positive but YEC is aimed at ensuring long term sustainability of potential businesses by not only engaged in policy dialogue but also undertaking support mechanisms to support entrepreneurs.”
SICCI as the peak body representing the private sector has a role to play in encouraging entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for young people, hence, the set-up of the YEC.
A Grant Agreement was signed between SICCI and MWYCFA last year with MWYCFA providing funds amounting to $200,000 to meet the set-up cost of the Council.
With a Coordinator now in office, YEC is expected to be officially launched soon.
The YEC initiative supports Objective 5 of the National Development Strategy which prioritises private sector development and entrepreneurship and is exactly the type of cooperation envisaged when the Solomon Islands Government and SICCI signed the Memorandum of Understanding last year contributing to a Public-Private Partnership and in strengthening government relationships with the private sector.