Early next year, coinciding with the first ABAC meeting for 2018 to be held in Auckland, he is gathering 100 top thinkers, business owners and entrepreneurs together to plan a road-map to future value creation for SMEs. Discussion at what’s being called The SME LEAP (Leading Enterprise Acceleration & Productivity) will include how an Institute of Small Businesss could work in New Zealand. High profile keynote speakers from other APEC nations will also share deep-seated knowledge citing examples from other APEC economies.
Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) employ over half the workforce across APEC economies and contribute significantly to economic growth, with GDP contributions ranging from 20 to 50 percent in the majority of APEC economies; New Zealand is circa 28 percent. However, according to Powell they only account for less than 35 percent of the direct exports, “New Zealand SMEs are particularly affected by this.”
Powell believes New Zealand is perfectly positioned to lift our SME performance and capture the value that will come from the recently signed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership; the agreement signed by eleven APEC leaders, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in Da Nang last month.
“New Zealand’s physical Internet infrastructure is world class, following the rollout of the Ultra-Fast Broadband network and the continuation of the Rural Broadband Initiative. This positions us amongst the best network infrastructures in the developed world, and it’s an important enabler for small business to compete in overseas markets under the CP-TPP.”
Powell says the ABAC SME & Entrepreneurial Working Group which he co-chairs is a work stream with a high profile within APEC. “It is more socioeconomic than just economic per se. It acts as a superset for the subsets of cross-border liberalization, market access and the removal of non-tariff barriers for SMEs, financing for business expansion and capability development, integrating green SMEs into the global value chain, leveraging the digital economy, and greater support for women-in-business.”
Powell believes establishing a Government Institute is the sort of big thinking required to ensure the Government better understands and delivers support to small business owners.
“An entity focused on delivering value to small business would be charged with developing well researched policy advice aimed at enhancing the ecosystem and environment in they operate, facilitating education for owner-managers, making access to the digital platforms more accessible, and working with banks to develop ways to fund SMEs without mortgaging the family home.”
Support for the idea has come from far and wide, including from business leaders from the Maori, Asian, Indian and New Zealand European economies.
Billy Te Kahika, Cultural Ambassador for Kingitanga says, “This is exactly what Maori small business owners have needed for some time. While larger Maori business can develop relationships with big overseas players, like Chinese funding partners, it’s the SME business owner who needs greater support and recognition. A well led government Institute has the ability to empower this support.”
Oceania Silk Road Network’s, William Zhao and Jerry He, agree. Mr He, who served on the Small Business Development Group with Powell says, “Chinese business owners who have made New Zealand their home are committed to the country’s development and see many opportunities under the new multi-lateral free trade agreement, the CP-TPP, signed in Da Nang.”
Founder and CEO of Indian radio network Tarana, Robert Khan who also served on the Small Business Development Group, is another avid supporter. “The Indian community will fully support any initiative that enables SME business owners to grow domestically and as exporters. It is as though an idea and its time has come together and we welcome discussion on the establishment of a Government Institute for SMEs.”
High profile Chinese business woman, Diane Wang, founder and CEO of DHgate, is speaking at the Summit. Wang, who represents ABAC China will travel to Auckland ahead of ABAC 1 and deliver a keynote address that Powell says will “resonate with any small business owner and particularly with women who are disadvantaged in terms of access to finance and global supply networks.”
Other speakers include incoming ABAC Chair, David Toua, who will coordinate the 21 nation ABAC agenda for 2018, and leading Malaysian business woman, Dato Rohana Mahmoud, Chair and Founder of RM Capital Partners.
Powell says, “Malaysia is an example of targeted resources in action to support small business through a government entity called the SME Corporation. The SME Corp is a central coordinating agency under the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry that formulates policies and strategies, and coordinates the implementation of SME development programmes across all related Ministries and Agencies. A similar entity, in the form of a government Institution, would work in New Zealand.”