‘On the losing end’

Participants and guests at the launch of the Fiji Bloom Business Accelerator Programme on Tuesday, November 19. Picture: ABISHEK CHAND

WOMEN entrepreneurs lose out on a lot when they fail to move their business from the informal to the formal sector.

According to the president of the Financial Management Counsellors Association of Fiji, Lagi Fisher these aspects include having to forfeit their children’s education, lose out on their livelihoods, sustainably and fail to come out of the cycle of poverty.

“Some of them miss out on property investment opportunities so it’s a big trade off when you think of the opportunities that they miss when they just basically miss out or don’t overcome some of this huddle and starting their business,” he said.

“One of the biggest challenges that the women face is basically formalising their business.

“Some of them were finding the requirement given by the different agencies in charge of business registration and business licensing too daunting, in the sense they need to go to multiple organisations before they can actually start running their business.

“And the cost are not only logistically to go from one institution to other coupled with the fees that they have to pay to the institution again is quite a huge huddle for them to actually manage at this stage.”

Mr Fisher added there was a lot of improvement in terms of the digitalising these services for them.

“With Digital Fiji coming up we anticipate that some of these services would be improved in the sense that you can actually register your business from outer islands as long as you have a business registration agency and access to internet you should be able to do that online pretty much.

“In terms of business license the challenge for micro business operating within the city boundaries is there is no provision within the municipal counsel act to actually provide license to people operating from their homes.”

He said he was aware of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism waiving the fees to acquiring a business license however the challenge still remained whether the act made provision for them to actually operate from home.

“Accessing finance for these ladies well because of our culture the title for these properties are still in the partners name and are still very gender biased in the sense that our estate are always wielded to the men or to the son of the family so it limits their ability to access any finance without any collateral.

“So institutions like South Pacific Business Development where they are given unsecured loan in the sense that they can get access to finance without providing any collateral and now in the country we have an asset registry where you can use your household items as collateral or as security as your loan,” he said.

The Financial Management Counsellors Association of Fiji has been operating since 2015 and according to Mr Fisher they have been running rural community training around the sugarcane belt.

He said since they were an EU funded program this was their targeted group.

“Post 2016 we were independent of any donor funding and we were able to operate outside of the sugarcane belt,” said Mr Fisher.

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