‘The iron will to succeed’: meet Papua New Guinea’s small business advocate


Desmond Yaninen is President of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Council, as well as the founder of financial services firm, Pacifund. He passionately believes in the potential for Papua New Guinea to grow its economy and raise living standards by creating successful small businesses.

Des Yaninen

The MSME Council’s Des Yaninen. Credit: Godfreeman Kaptigau

BAPNG: How did you get from working for someone else to working for yourself?

Des Yaninen: I spent about 13 years working for the National Development Bank and, while I was there, I saw an unmet need. Every year, the bank would receive millions in loan applications, but only a third could be funded.

I established my own financial services company, Pacifund (there are 11 employees now), to address the problem of access to finance. And, in particular, not debt funding but equity funding. So, getting SMEs to pitch their businesses in a way that will encourage investors to come in and invest.

BAPNG: Has your original vision for the business changed over time?

Des Yaninen: The original vision was to set up a crowd fund platform for the entire Pacific region. We have partners in Solomon Islands and Fiji who are ready to go. This unfortunately hasn’t gotten off the ground in PNG yet due to the restrictions with the central bank and the Securities Commission.

‘My Youth SME Program is about telling young people that they don’t need to go to uni and get a job to be successful. I want them to think about being employers and not employees.’

BAPNG:  PNG has plenty of financial institutions but financial advisory services are not so common, especially for SMEs. Why? What do you think the potential is for this sector?

Des Yaninen: Financial advisory services are not stand-alone businesses here in PNG. They are mostly offered as a service from local accounting firms – and there are hundreds of these tier 2 and 3 firms around who do this, apart from the tier 1 Deloittes, PwCs and KPMGs. Business Link Pacific is an online platform funded by the New Zealand government where many local accounting and financial services firms register and are able to provide these services to our people at a subsidised rate.

Why is promoting SMEs so important to you?

Des Yaninen: The job market in PNG is limited. There are only ever about 500,000 jobs in the formal sector, and looking at our population, there are only enough jobs for 10 per cent of our adult population at any one time. So, you have around 90 per cent of our population still looking for jobs, no matter how qualified you are. So, we need to change the conversation and really get people to start looking at business.

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What projects are you working on now?

Des Yaninen: Less than 20 per cent of school leavers each year will have opportunities; 80 per cent coming out (of school) will automatically be labelled as failures because they didn’t get any (job) offers. So, you have a lot of smart kids that are missing out. This burden put on young people creates an atmosphere of negativity, which in turn breeds failure. We’re calling them failures for something that is not their fault—we don’t have enough space for all these young people, so we have to do something about it.

‘The biggest challenge is the mindset of our entrepreneurs.’

So, my Youth SME Program is about telling young people that they don’t need to go to uni and get a job to be successful. I want them to think about being employers and not employees.

What are some of the common misconceptions that SME owners have?

Des Yaninen: The most common misconception is that anyone can apply for a loan without putting up any security or equity. Once small business owners find out that they have to put something up, many are deterred and never proceed.

If you could wave a magic wand to make business conditions better for SMEs in PNG, what would you do?

Des Yaninen: The biggest challenge is the mindset of our entrepreneurs. If you think something is too difficult, then that’s what it becomes. The opposite is true. There is immense opportunity in our country, and those who have persisted and soldiered on regardless of the limitations and barriers have become immensely successful. If I had a magic wand to wave, I would grant everyone an iron will to succeed despite all odds.


  1. Paul Kapolis says

    Very Smart person with a brilliant idea to help all Papua New Guineans to be involve in sme.This is way forward.

  2. Margaret Haor says

    Thanks for Desmond brilliant idea. Yes he is talking from experience as he was with National Development Bank. I was one of those SME who went into the business as Mobil Meal Catering. Unfortunately Regulations from the City Authority not providing location or site to operate. It was difficult for small SME to survive

  3. Eugene Tengis says

    We have created sme business account and prove to the banks that we are now located as businessman and woman,why won,t the gornverment and the banks keeps a simple policy to financially support the country economic flow and its development program,it seems like time is running very fast and we are still yet sitting and talking about SME development.most of SME operaters had big plans for their business development,but how can they work on it in time?only money power advance any business activities and assist development.

  4. Samantha. Maiwori says

    Dear sir
    Do you asist the Sole trader who is into MSME? Our plan most likely to put up a coffin shop for Papua New Guineans.

  5. The support must really be accessable by aspiring citizens who are into SME
    Meaning the loan policies must be relaxed or forget about loan coz it’s a burden why not assist with a start up capital I believe is the way forward

  6. Brian sifihuie Walters says

    Beautiful brain this program will take PNG to a different level of financial breakthrough n benefits n create employment

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