The Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea hosted the Young Entrepreneurs Roundtable on Tuesday 10 May 2016 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The event was held as part of PNG-Australia Bung Wantaim-Yumi Poroman Week, an annual program of events which celebrates the people-to-people connections between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Photo: Australian High Commission, Port Moresby


  • Executive Summary
  • Partners, participants and event format
  • Panel discussion summary – ‘Balancing profit and purpose’
  • Outcomes
  • Acknowledgements
  • Annexe
    • Guest speaker biographies
    • Participants
    • External engagement

Executive Summary

Small businesses are vital for sustainable and inclusive economic development in Papua New Guinea. There are limited opportunities for employment in the formal professional sector in Papua New Guinea yet hundreds of thousands of productive opportunities need to be found for the younger generation. These are most likely to come from the informal sector and from small businesses and social enterprises. A 2015 International Trade Centre report found that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are central to addressing global income inequality and achieving inclusive economic growth.

Young Papua New Guineans have an opportunity to transform their country by developing vibrant and innovative businesses. However, aspiring entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea face many obstacles. Access to finance is limited. Telecommunication, utility and office rental costs are high. Securing access to markets is also a major challenge, with poor infrastructure often preventing rural enterprises from transporting their goods to markets. These challenges for young entrepreneurs are compounded by the difficulty of managing cultural obligations with modern business demands in Papua New Guinea.

The Roundtable brought together forty aspiring young Papua New Guinean entrepreneurs to network and share ideas about how to grow their businesses and social enterprises. Eight guest speakers, including four from Australia and four from Papua New Guinea, spoke about the challenges they had overcome and the lessons they had learnt throughout their entrepreneurship journeys.

Those who are striking out on their own need support. This event has helped foster the community of young entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea to connect with each other to build their networks so they can reach out to their peers for business advice. The guest speakers also offered valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t when getting a new business off the ground.

Partners, participants and event format

This event was held under the auspices of the Lowy Institute’s Aus-PNG Network, an initiative to enhance people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The flagship event of the Aus-PNG Network is the annual Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue. Over the last three years of running the Dialogue, the Lowy Institute has found that there is no substitute for meeting people face-to-face to build connections and an informal approach allows for interesting and engaging conversation.

The discussions involved a select group of Papua New Guinean participants who are running their own businesses or are involved with a social enterprise. The group was drawn primarily from the business incubation programs; the Kumul GameChangers  and the National Development Bank’s Young Enterprise Scheme.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Country Representative for PNG, Roy Trivedy, Australian High Commissioner, Mr Bruce Davis, and Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow, Ian Kemish, were on hand to welcome the participants to the event. High Commissioner Davis highlighted the important contribution start-up enterprises make to economic growth in his welcome address.

The half-day Roundtable consisted of two sessions. In the first session a panel of eight guest speakers, four Papua New Guineans and four Australians, discussed the theme Balancing profit and purpose,with time for the audience to pose questions to the panel. The second session focused on Realising future opportunities. Participants were divided into smaller groups, according to the focus of their businesses, to delve deeper into their individual projects with their peers and the guest speakers. Participants were asked to come prepared to discuss the biggest opportunity that they saw in their future to allow the conversation to focus on positive progress rather than simply the challenges and obstacles facing young entrepreneurs.

Summary of the panel discussion – ‘Balancing profit and purpose’

Des Yaninen, CEO of NDB Investments, chaired the session. To introduce the session he highlighted that PNG is a poor country by most international standards but it is rich in natural and human resources and vast amounts of fertile land will be passed down to young Papua New Guineans. Influenced by the western definition of poverty and success young Papua New Guineans are focusing on being educated and climbing the corporate ladder. However, there are only 5000 spaces in PNG’s universities, which means that only the top 18% can receive a university education. The lack of capacity in the education system is hampering the growth of opportunity for youth. Globally, 80% of startups fail in the first five years of operation so PNG needs to work to create a fertile ecosystem for SMEs and startups.

Panelists discussed how many young people consider full time employment the only way they can earn a living but there are other options for them. In PNG’s case, SMEs are a necessary alternative because the formal economy is not large enough to soak up all of the young people graduating from high school. Business should also be considered as a tool to create wider social change and have a positive impact.

When it comes to the question of balancing profit and purpose we need to change our thinking, rather than how much less profit should we gain to make an impact it should be about how we can create revenue in order to create more social and environmental impact. It is not necessarily a tradeoff. You are more likely to attract support if positive social impact is incorporated into your business model.

The guest speakers discussed the huge potential for agriculture-based businesses in PNG, crops like coffee, cocoa, copra, and vanilla. If Papua New Guineans can be alive to the global trends in agriculture they could benefit from the increasing desire for traceability and product authenticity. People are happy to pay extra money if they know the origins of the product.

They also explored the need for persistence in business. Entrepreneurship is about self-discovery and perseverance. You have the freedom to mold your business in your image but it takes a lot of confidence to continue with a small business when the cultural focus is so heavily directed towards full time formal employment.

In response to a question from the audience which asked, when do you know if you have the right idea? The panelists agreed that you should take the leap when the idea becomes viable and is distilled enough to be tangible and actionable. Although you may be going up against bigger businesses if you believe in the quality of your product people are willing to listen. You need to leverage the advantages of being a small business, sell yourself as having certain advantages that large companies cannot provide. Your personalized service makes up for the gap in experience.


Surveys were distributed to participants to enhance the understanding of the profile of the participants. We succeeded in attracting participants from outside of Port Moresby including from New Ireland, Western Province and Morobe, but the majority were Port Moresby-based. Participants were at different stages of their entrepreneurship journeys. We saw this as a positive aspect of the event because the diversity of experiences they brought to the table added to the rich discussions. We emphasised ahead of the event that it was about mutual, collaborative learning and felt that all participants came in this spirit.

When asked what the top three factors that influenced their decision to enter into business were, the most common responses were; ‘I wanted to give back to my community’, ‘I like the flexibility it provides me’ and ‘I wanted to be my own boss’. Clearly, there is a strong concern for the wider Papua New Guinean community among the participants. The factors that most strongly affected their ability to successfully run their businesses were; ‘building a client base’, ‘access to finance’ and ‘securing contracts’.

The surveys were also designed to obtain feedback on the quality and value of the event. The participants benefited from hearing the experiences of the guest speakers but would have enjoyed a longer period for Q&A. They valued the diversity of the speakers we featured on the panel. Over 85% of participants rated the Roundtable as either very good or good overall.

This event has helped expand the network of young Papua New Guinean leaders that have been brought together through the Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue and build on the great work other organisations have been doing in the entrepreneurship space.

The Lowy Institute is eager to continue to support the nascent community of entrepreneurs in PNG. The Institute can play an important role in facilitating continued engagement for this community, through leveraging the connections of the Aus-PNG Network and holding more events of this kind. We will aim to tap into groups we were unable to reach this time around for future events to ensure that this valuable opportunity is extended to a range of people.


The Lowy Institute is grateful for the support of the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea to hold this event, in particular to the public diplomacy team and the High Commissioner. We would also like to thank the United Nations Development Programme in PNG and NDB Investments for facilitating the attendance of the participants in their programs. And finally, thank you to the guest speakers and all those who attended for their enthusiasm for the event.


Guest speaker biographies

Tessa Albrecht is a communications professional in financial services, published writer, speaker and social entrepreneur passionate about the role of business to effect positive change in the world. She manages global corporate communications for LeapFrog Investments, the world’s largest impact investor in emerging markets financial services, serving the next billion consumers with essential financial tools. Tessa started her career at the Westpac Group, where she was a key founding member of The Stella Network by BT Financial Group, an award-winning online community encouraging greater gender participation in financial planning. She is also the founder of Australia’s first certified Fairtrade cosmetics line, focussed on encouraging more equitable trade between Australia and producers in emerging economies. Tessa represented Australia at the 2014 Nexus Youth Summit on innovative philanthropy and social entrepreneurship and the 2012 One Young World Summit. Tessa was also selected to participate in the 2014 Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue.

Amanda Donigi is a writer and entrepreneur. In 2012, Amanda founded Stella magazine in Port Moresby with the aim to challenge the traditional publishing mould and produce inspiring editorials to uplift communities. As editor of Stella, Amanda and her team of rule breakers bring together indigenous voices from across the globe in celebration of culture, and draw attention to people and issues largely overlooked in media. She and her team are blending old and new, holding up the cultural mirror, and rebelling to bring modern viewpoints to the people and encourage independent thought. Today, her quarterly print magazine is read in 12 countries and available digitally via the magazine app. Amanda is working towards launching Stella in a total of 22 countries to broaden positive media for our indigenous communities and inspire people to live on purpose.

Sabine Joseph is passionate about the ethical and sustainable development of coffee and local communities in Papua New Guinea.  Having grown up in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea on both tea and coffee plantations, Sabine has first-hand knowledge of the coffee landscape in this remote and fascinating part of the world.  Sabine’s family has lived in Papua New Guinea and worked in the coffee industry there for nearly 30 years. Sabine through SA-Bean International is working towards bringing about long-term sustainable options for coffee growers and providing better local services within communities.

Winifred Kula-Amini is the co-founder of Win-IT Consultancy. As a HiTech entrepreneur, she has developed an interest and passion in better understanding the struggles of PNG start-ups. She is developing this understanding through her roles in the PNG ICT cluster where she volunteers and assists in planning programs and events to help determine pathways to amplify entrepreneurs’ voices. She hopes this will help accelerate high impact ideas, both social and commercial. She holds a Masters in Business, specialising in Entrepreneurship, from the University of Queensland, Australia and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from University of Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Shane Ninai is a 24-year-old with a well-documented track record of firsts as a Papua New Guinean. In 2009, Shane was the first Papua New Guinean high school student to attain an OP1/ATAR99 from The Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane before undertaking a Bachelor of Law/Economics at The University of Sydney in 2010. In 2015, Shane became the first Papua New Guinean and Pacific Island entrepreneur to be selected for the highly competitive Silicon Valley entrepreneurial accelerator – Draper University. After graduating Shane joined Draper University staff as an entrepreneur-in-residence mentoring 170+ innovative companies; organising and implementing curriculum and innovation programs, working with hundreds of Silicon Valley’s best entrepreneurs, companies and investors. Shane is currently the founder and managing partner of Day One Investments, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund investing in blockchain technology companies. His partner in this venture is third generation Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper. Shane is also an MIT Blockchain Consensus Scholar (2016), an award he received from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on exceptional understanding of blockchain technology applications and opportunities, specifically in emerging markets. Shane is passionate about blockchain technology, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem development in PNG.

Julian O’Shea is a social entrepreneur and humanitarian engineer, who is passionate about innovation in education and international development. He is currently a Westpac Social Change Fellow, exploring how international education programs can achieve positive social change. He is the Founder of Laika Academy, a social enterprise leading overseas study experiences on global challenges, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Vietnam); social enterprise and innovation (India); and disaster response and resilience (Nepal). Prior to this he was the Director of the Engineers Without Borders Institute – the education, research and training section of an international development organisation. In this role he led programs including the Regioneering Road Show (science and engineering outreach program); the EWB Challenge (university design program) and Link Festival of Design, Technology and Social Change. This work was around creating innovative programs for community impact: from improving pipe design in landslide-affected areas of East Timor to designing and installing rainwater harvesting systems to secure safe drinking water in Cambodian schools. Outside of work he loves drinking coffee, seeing live comedy and adventure travel.

Brendan Worsley is a builder and a registered architect and one of three founders of Sago Network, a small not-for-profit team that specialise in community-centred development projects in Papua New Guinea that focus on village-scale water and sanitation infrastructure. The network operates in conjunction with a Sydney based design-build company, Sago Design, which allocates time to the projects as a social enterprise. Recent projects have collaborated with rural villages in Central and Morobe Provinces who are motivated to address their water and sanitation challenges as a crucial stepping-stone toward improved village health. Brendan takes a hands-on approach to community development with an interest in developing comprehensive technical responses to community needs, whilst maintaining an equally thorough and sustainable, capacity-building process with the communities with whom the team works.

Desmond Yaninen is a young Papua New Guinean business leader passionate about empowering Papua New Guineans through business. He is Chief Executive Officer of NDB Investments (NDBI), a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Development Bank. NDBI is PNG’s first Business Incubator, first established in 1976 to coordinate the Stret Pasin Store Scheme. With a personal drive to blaze new trails, he developed PNG’s first Women In Business product under NDB in 2010, created PNG’s first exclusive youth in business program in 2014, is coordinating the re-introduction of the Stret Pasin Retail Shop scheme, and developing other helpful products and services for SMEs. Mr Yaninen has worked in the development finance industry for 10 years. He holds professional membership in CPA PNG, PNG Institute of Directors and possesses qualifications in Accounting, Management and Finance from PNG and Australia.


Kumul GameChangers, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with the Kumul Foundation, the Institute of Banking and Business Management and supported by the Australian Government, aims to influence the inclusive development discourse through their work with entrepreneurs, impact investors and inclusive businesses. The initiative has lined up a host of services as impact entrepreneurs embark on their journey, including strategic mentoring, business skills development, access to sector knowledge, media visibility and the opportunity to fundraise through the program.

National Development Bank Investments launched Papua New Guinea’s first ever youth in business program with the Stret Pasin Young Enterprise Scheme in November 2014. The program aims to decrease the high percentage of youth unemployment by providing the opportunity for keen entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. The two year scheme offers entrepreneurial training, funding, mentoring and business support services.

Participant list:

Janine Aringa Garap – Binks BBQ, Young Enterprise Scheme, Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue

Libert Apa – Retail sector, Young Enterprise Scheme

Rosemary Benjamin – Allegiance Heath, Kumul GameChangers

Veronika Damena – Entrepreneur

Sharlene Gawi – Young Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce

John Geon – President of the Lihir Island Youth and Sports Association

Cliffton Gimlolo – Young Enterprise Scheme

Ninning Jal – Eco Services, Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue

Geraldine Kalabai – UniMoms

Leeanne Kenewi – Retail beauty, Young Enterprise Scheme

Gabriel Kiakpe – Youth representing Kapit Relocatees

David Kitchnoge – Financial Modeller, Bank South Pacific, Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue

Raula Kula – Assistant Professor, Software Engineering, Osaka University

Lindsay Kutan – Niugini Land and Properties, Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue

Jack Kulumbe – Entrepreneur

Reuben Mete – Union of Watut River Communities Association Inc.

Clint Napo – Mi Check Now, Kumul GameChangers

Deborah Onga – D&D Shop and Lawyer

Alfred Pana Anda – Transport sector, Young Enterprise Scheme

Parag Panjwani – Chief Marketing Officer, B Mobile and Young Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce

Maxine Pupet – Representing young people and the Lihir Mining Area Land Owners Association

Keith Raimo – Treasurer, Young Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce

Gloria Sevua – Young Enterprise Scheme coordinator, National Development Bank Investments

Raymond Singamis – Baktaman Area Association and Rhyming Soundz Media Limited

Pius Sipou – Retail sector, Young Enterprise Scheme

Sophia-Joy Soli – Culture Consulate, Kumul GameChangers

Amanda Tau – Accountant and Entrepreneur, Pacificana

John Taka – Seeds of Hope, Aus-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue

John Tububol – Treasurer of the Lihir Island Youth and Sports Association

Gretel Ungaia – Entrepreneur and Lawyer

Jonathan Vance – Family Life PNG by BIMA

Tara Vele – Retail sector, Young Enterprise Scheme

Gerry Yapasi – Retail sector, Young Enterprise Scheme

Tanya Zeriga – Entrepreneur


Jonathan Pryke – Lowy Institute for International Policy

Anna Kirk – Lowy Institute for International Policy

Alastair Davis – Lowy Institute for International Policy

Jimmy Peter – Newcrest, accompanying Lihir contingent

Christopher Elphick – President, Young Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Julie Bukikun – UNDP

Roy Trivedy – UNDP

Kia-Henry Nema – UNDP

Representatives from the Australian High Commission


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About the Author

Anna Kirk - Project Director, Aus-PNG Network - Lowy Institute

Anna Kirk

Project Director, Aus-PNG Network

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Anna Kirk was Research Fellow and Project Director of the Aus-PNG Network at the Lowy Institute, where her work focused on Australia’s relations with Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. Anna holds a Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Queensland, with majors in Peace and Conflict Studies and Spanish. Anna grew up in Port Vila, Vanuatu. During her undergraduate degree she spent a semester studying Spanish language at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. In 2013, Anna spent six months teaching English in Santiago, Chile.