In a new series, The Aus-PNG Network is profiling past participants of the annual Emerging Leaders Dialouge. Our first past participant, Zha Agabe-Granfar is a passionate young mum who splits her time between the Gold Coast and Port Moresby. She also currently serves as a Director of Solartec Global Limited and Verge Limited, and is a board member of the Solar Energy Association of Papua New Guinea.
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Tell us about yourself and your career.
Zha was born and raised in Papua New Guinea, educated in Australia and up until recently living in Shanghai with ethnic heritage from The Philippines. A global citizen by nature, Zha's experience and background provide a unique and deepened understanding of doing business in the dynamic and often challenging Asia Pacific region. With more than 12 years’ experience across the multinational, SME and not-for-profit sectors including Tertiary Education, Audit & Assurance, Finance & Operations as well as Telecommunications, her acumen stems from a broad spectrum of business disciplines and cross-cultural learning from PNG to Australia, China and the Philippines.
She's an advocate of the critical participation of women for true long-term success to be realised within social and institutional structures and for real sustainable community development. In late 2014 when she became a new young mum, the importance of these ideals were only further crystallised. Thus she’s supportive when opportunities arise to assist with mentorship, training or speaking engagements that facilitate these principles.
Currently she serves on the board of the newly established Solar Energy Association of Papua New Guinea, which has been founded to provide policy recommendations, increase training opportunities and public awareness about the benefits of solar technology in PNG. She is also serving as a director of Solartec Global, a wholesaler of quality solar-solutions designed to meet developing-country conditions.
Recently, she’s founded a new Port Moresby based brand-consultancy, VERGE Limited, which specialises in digital marketing and communications, quality design and branded collateral.
What brought you to explore the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship through the Emerging Leaders Dialogue?
The desire to meet young, energetic professionals from Australia and PNG that are passionate about the region and rendering exciting services/work.
In your view, why are people-to-people connections important for the Australia – Papua New Guinea bilateral relationship?
No matter the critical value of any strategic policies, economic agendas or commercial transactions – in the absence of people-to-people connections, these objectives will inevitably fail to be realised or provide optimal results. People-to-people relationships are crucial in development-phase, implementation as well as for on-going maintenance or sustainable enforcement of any initiatives.
Thus, this affects almost every strategic portfolio in the PNG-Australia relationship: regional security, immigration/emigration, trade and development, health and education, law and justice etc.
What role can social enterprises play in the future of the Asia-Pacific region?
I personally understand ‘social enterprises’ to be essentially business ventures (small or large) that deliver services/products that have a socially positive impact on the community. Investing in capacity-building at the grassroots level to develop and nurture these kinds of efforts is key to the Asia Pacific Region’s stability.
The role Social Enterprises play in the region affects many facets of every-day society. Whether it is financial independence from institutional/government-hand outs; developing a sense of ownership over issues and implementing solutions (instead of waiting for government or other institutions to provide direction); nurturing opportunities for regional collaboration and therefore strengthening of people-to-people ties and understanding between nations; and of course, the direct impact of social good the services/goods offer to their immediate customer base.
Fundamentally, because Social Enterprises arise from individual initiatives responding to market issues or gaps. The critical element of being self-motivated to respond to an issue or cause is the differentiating quality and a major reason for the increased potential of long-term sustainability.
In your opinion, what are some of the most pressing shared challenges facing both Australia and Papua New Guinea?
- Engagement and promotion of Women in Leadership Roles (I am a firm believer that without it, the full potential of both countries, the relationship they have and indeed the potential of the pacific region will fall short).
- Human Displacement (whether international refugees, or internally displaced populations due to environmental issues)
- Domestic Violence and its affects on Children, Women and the wider community
- The affects of intoxication (whether through alcohol or illicit drugs) and the on-costs to society
- The need to push for more investment, policy support and focus into the renewable energy sector (in particular Solar) as both countries have ideal environments.
What is next in the future for you?
- Collaborate with PNG-based organisations to share some learning I’ve been fortunate to have through my professional experiences and offer mentorships or training opportunities to budding local entrepreneurs in building their own ventures.
- Continue to Develop VERGE Limited – a new brand consultancy based in Port Moresby specialising in digital marketing and communications, quality design and brand collateral.
- Continue to be part of the dialogue and effort of developing the Solar Industry in Papua New Guinea and possibly the wider Pacific.