The Ministry for Ethnic Communities - Te Tari Mātāwaka's organised the First EthnicBiz Forum themed: Unlocking Ethnic Business Potential.
The Forum, held in Auckland on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, saw more than 100 participants from ethnic businesses, business associations, government, and financial organisations coming together.
They represented various business groups, like the Auckland Business Chamber, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, the ASEAN New Zealand Business Council, the New Zealand Malaysia Business Association, the New Zealand Shandong Business Association, the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce, the Canton Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand, the Indian New Zealand Business Council, and other umbrella business organisations.
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, and Minister for Auckland, Immigration, Transport and Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, also joined the event.
The main objective of the Forum was to actively listen to the ideas, needs, and concerns of the ethnic businesses, then liaise with relevant government and community organisations to bring ideas to life, address different challenges, and explore further opportunities for a more inclusive economy.
In addition, the Forum provided practical knowledge and lived experiences throughout its sessions that discussed multiple topics, like valuing ethnic diversity to support business growth, how to cross the cultural bridge, and the safety of small business owners.
The Chief Executive of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, Mervin Singham, said that the Forum was a platform to "empower and connect with ethnic and mainstream businesses".
"We need to tap into our collective ingenuity and find innovative ways to support the ethnic businesses and increase their representation for a more coherent, productive economy for Aotearoa New Zealand and its people," Mervin Singham said.
"Since the establishment of the Ministry, we have been working to demonstrate the value our ethnic communities bring to Aotearoa, and this applies, of course, to the economic and business space.
"With the ever-changing national and international environment, which is posing pressure and challenges on the businesses in general and even more on the ethnic ones, we're trying through these events to create a two-way communication avenue to discuss the emerging needs of ethnic businesses and bring them to the decision-making table," Singham said.
A recent report commissioned by the Auckland Policy Office found that 54% of the Auckland economy can be attributed to Pākehā, 9% to Māori and 7% to Pasifika. The remaining 30%, or $33b, can be attributed to ethnic communities, which represents the value ethnic businesses add and their growing role in New Zealand's socioeconomic fabric.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Auckland Business Chamber, Simon Bridges, expressed his enthusiasm about the idea of the Forum and being part of it.
"I am excited about the Auckland Business Chamber's involvement in EthnicBiz. Small and medium enterprises are the vital engine room of New Zealand business. They are now more than ever fuelled by our ethnic and migrant communities. New Zealand needs our ethnic businesses to thrive. I want to be right in the middle of that dynamic Kaupapa," Bridges said.
Access to mainstream business associations' support could help mitigate some of the barriers ethnic businesses face. This will facilitate their access to vital information and broader business networks that would be helpful to their success.
The Head of Asia Business Activation of the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), Franky Wang, said it's essential to include different cultural views in the decision-making process.
"Supporting ethnic diversity with a strong social and business growth mindset through good governance matters because boards make decisions based on our planet, people and prosperity.
"Being guided by good principals of governance supported by different cultural lenses leads to both financial and non-financial outcomes that will impact all of us into the future sustainably and inter-generationally," Wang said.
The University of Auckland’s Business School offered one of the Forum’s ethnic business participants a full sponsorship of a two-day course on Chane Management. This course is a valuable learning opportunity, equipping recipients with the knowledge and skills necessary for their professional growth and contribution to the ethnic business community.
On 28 April, the Ministry hosted a Ministerial Roundtable with the heads of business associations and ethnic businesses. The insights shared during the Roundtable fed into the Forum's design and outcomes.
Both initiatives, the Ministerial Roundtable and the EthnicBiz Forum, align with the Ministry's priorities to promote the value of diversity and look into improving the inclusion of ethnic businesses. It also develops and supports initiatives to improve economic outcomes, including addressing barriers to investment and businesses.
Radio New Zealand (RNZ) featured the Forum in their Morning Report aired on 29 May 2023: Business networks miss the mark with key participants - ethnic business leader | RNZ News