Help for Papua New Guinea small-to-medium businesses

Welcome,

Young and dynamic advisors are stepping up to provide support to Papua New Guinea’s 50,000 small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). Lisa Smyth reports on a service industry that looks set to boom along with the number of SMEs in the country.

Help desk … Akae Beach (left), one of the young guns providing assistance to SMEs.

Three-and-a-half-years ago, Akae Beach began her own firm, Beach Accounting and Advisory (BAA), based in Brisbane. Having spent more than 20 years working for large corporate clients in Papua New Guinea, she decided to go out on her own, but with a focus on small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

‘I knew that there were not many people helping the SME market. There is help for larger corporate clients but a gap for SMEs. Many are not keeping regular accounting books every month, and are not compliant,’ she says.

‘For a long time, SMEs in PNG were almost exclusively retailers and wholesalers. But now there is definitely more coming from the agriculture, tourism and technology sectors’

Having recognised the opportunity in the market, what Beach didn’t expect was for her business to grow so quickly. Originally from Bougainville, Beach moved her business base to PNG in 2017 and now employs 45 staff across offices in Port Moresby, Lae, Buka and a soon-to-open office in Kokopo. Her business has supported more than 130 SMEs in the past year.

‘For a long time, SMEs in PNG were almost exclusively retailers and wholesalers. But now there is definitely more coming from the agriculture, tourism and technology sectors,’ says Beach.

Flexibility

The PNG Government estimates that the number of SMEs in 2015 was just under 50,000 but the government’s development plans call for that to grow to 500,000 by 2030. This growth will create two million jobs and ultimately SMEs will contribute 50 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. But many SMEs operate in the informal sector or cash economy and view the fees of consulting and advisory services as too high.

Story continues after advertisment...

‘More SMEs are starting to become aware of consulting services, but are put off by the high fees,’ explains Beach. ‘But when they realise that they can employ us on a part-time basis, and that our cloud-based technology means we can service them anywhere, they start to see the benefit.’

‘The PNG Government estimates that the number of SMEs in 2015 was just under 50,000 but the government’s development plan calls for that to grow to 500,000 by 2030.’

Understanding the unique business conditions in PNG, Beach began offering night hours to her clients so they wouldn’t have to close their businesses during the day and could have greater flexibility around their bookkeeping.

‘We always have 10 staff working at night to help our clients, but there are also sound business reasons. The internet in PNG works a lot better at night—it is a lot faster—and many of my employees are students and parents who appreciate flexible work arrangements,’ says Beach.

Growth

Service providers in the areas of business and financial accounting, business planning, recruitment and human resources, marketing and e-commerce, IT systems, standards and certification advice, export promotion and market linkages are vital to achieving the expected growth in the SME sector in PNG. But the service industry that caters to SMEs is still very underdeveloped across the Pacific.

‘We’ve seen considerable interest in PNG from the business services industry, and we are particularly pleased with the traction gained through the accounting and financial services firms we have on board,’ says Steve Knapp, director of Business Link Pacific, a New Zealand government-funded program that launched in 2017.

The program works on both sides of the equation—providing subsidies to eligible SMEs, as well as a referral service and a quality assurance system for service providers, including BAA.

‘The future of business in PNG is bright.’

‘We identify the best local service providers so SMEs can access quality local business advisory services, while service providers can be connected to new clients,’ explains Knapp. ‘These service providers are taking a dynamic approach to harnessing more SMEs into their portfolios and recognise the positive results that come from healthy thriving small businesses in the Pacific.’

Beach, who sits on the boards of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Transparency International, believes the future of business in PNG is bright.

‘With new technology, you don’t need much capital to start a business these days and we will see a lot more start-ups in PNG. I am looking forward to seeing more empowered Papua New Guineans in the coming years.’

Comments

  1. Vanua Vevao says

    Hi, I am a farmer with qualification willing to participate in such programs. How can I be engaged.

  2. Graham McNally says

    1) Re-base our education system to one that generates ‘job creators’ as opposed to one that generates ‘ job seekers’.
    2) Establish a ministry of entrepreneurship.

Leave a Reply