Sustainable Development Success Stories

Start and improve Your Business in the Pacific

Location  Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
Responsible Organisation

International Labour Organisation (ILO), in partnership with UNIDO for related SED activities. Funded by UNDP.

Description Start Your Business (SYB) and Improve Your Business (IYB) are programmes geared towards training of entrepreneurs who want to start or improve a small business. The programmes assist in training of trainers, developing training manuals, and supporting the development of an infrastructure for the sustainable delivery of entrepreneurship training through local institutions. These institutions, along with small enterprise support organisations and NGOs, are assisted to provide support to community groups and disadvantaged groups in the development and strengthening of small business activities. The programme is made sustainable through skills training of business advisers and trainers, and the supply of materials. The projects have been undertaken to promote self-employment and job-creation in the South Pacific. The South Pacific Small Island countries involved in these projects are at a stage of changing from non-monetary subsistence economies to a situation where there is a breakdown of traditional extended family systems, a strong rural/urban drift, and an increasingly well educated population. Unfortunately, job creation has not kept pace with the social transition. This is leading to increasing social friction at rural and particularly urban levels, rising crime rates and widespread unemployment. The situation is aggravated by the absence of entrepreneurship skills within the population due to the traditional communal economic culture. The SYB/IYB programmes were first started in Fiji between 1991 and 1995 followed by a regional SIYB project in nine Pacific Island Countries implemented in 1995-1996, with follow-up support till date. From 1997, a SIYB project is being implemented in Kiribati.

Regional SIYB project: This was implemented in 9 Pacific Island countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu). With the assistance of national counterparts, trainers from a variety of local organisations were trained. With only limited small enterprise support organisations available, the project aimed at the establishment of Trainers Associations to coordinate SIYB activities in the countries. Support also included assistance in institutionalisation of activities in user organisations.

Fiji project: SYB and IYB training packages were developed and well over 100 trainers were trained in SYB and IYB. The project also assisted the Government of Fiji in the establishment of a Small Business Advisory Unit (SBAU).

Kiribati: The ongoing SIYB project has separate SYB and IYB components. Learning from the earlier Fiji and regional projects, a comprehensive certification procedure is implemented which provides the formally established Trainers Association with clear financial incentives to conduct SIYB courses in the capital. Direct technical support and temporary financial incentives are provided to the two most important training institutes in the country to institutionalize the programme. The training institutions can draw on certified trainers from the Association to conduct such training. The project directly assists in the translation of the materials, which enables the Ministry of Commerce and the Business Advisory Centre to conduct SIYB courses in the outer islands. The focus of SYB programmes in all institutions is the completion of a business plan during the training of entrepreneurs (TE) programme, with direct linkage and involvement of support institutions such as the Business Advisory Centre and the Development Bank. For IYB-ToEs, the same linkages will enable the provision of follow-up support through Business Improvement Groups and Individual Counseling.

Issues Addressed Local capacity building, sustainable development and strengthening of small business activities, promotion of self-employment.
Results Achieved

All projects have been successful in providing an important impetus for employment promotion in the region and have provided an important contribution to the development of a small business sector in the countries in the region. The more recent projects are benefiting from the previous experiences and are making SYB/IYB programmes more sustainable and more integrated.

Regional project: A number of locally translated SYB versions have been produced and SYB courses are still organised on a regular basis in 6 out of 9 countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu). An important step to make the programme sustainable has been the involvement of the University of the South Pacific (USP). USP has extension centres in 12 out of the 22 Forum member states, and has agreed to include SYB-TEs in its short course programmes in the Pacific by hiring the trainers trained under the project. Courses are provided by USP extension centres at the normal rates (full cost-recovery price). This approach may guarantee that SYB activities will be sustained in the future.

Fiji project: The project left a pool of trainers working mostly in different ministries who are still conducting SYB and IYB courses on a regular basis for their target groups. These include the Ministry of Fijian Affairs (assisting ethnic Fijians to start businesses); Ministry of Women’s Affairs (develop income generating activities for women groups); Ministry of Youth Affairs (assisting youth to become self-employed through the Youth Options Centre); NGOs and training institutions. Among the latter are the University of the South Pacific through its extension centres, and the Fiji Institute of Technology, a major vocational training institute. The project has thus achieved a certain level of sustainability, and jobs are being created as a result of the regular courses provided through the different agencies.

Lessons Learned

The main focus of the Fiji and regional projects was on ToTs, development of training materials and support to business support agencies. Lessons learned from these projects include:

  • The need to link SIYB training to other services (business advice, access to credit, roster of business profiles, etc) without which SIYB may not have the anticipated long term impact in terms of number of businesses established.

  • The need for a coordinating agency providing follow-up training of trainers’ activities, further updates and reprints of materials and other coordinating SIYB functions. In this context also, the sustainability and success of the SIYB in the concerned countries largely depends on the availability of organisations for which SYB serves a direct purpose.

  • The need for project incentives and support to stimulate user-organisations to integrate/adapt and execute SIYB activities for their target groups.

  • The need for follow-up activities and monitoring of trained trainers preceded by a clearly defined certification procedure as well as a master trainers programme to ensure that additional trainers can be trained by the masters trainers to ensure future ‘supply’ of new trainers after termination of the projects.

  • The need to include policy issues in project design, for example to simplify licensing procedures if this is one of the main drawbacks to small business development.

  • The need to focus the SYB training on the completion of a business plan or feasibility study by the entrepreneur, so that course participants are left not only with increased knowledge but also with concrete plans.

  • Depending on the objectives and target groups of the user organisation, the need to charge for SYB/IYB courses by the providers to ensure sustainability.


Mr. HR Hatton, Director
ILO Office for the South Pacific
PO Box 14500, Suva Fiji
Tel. + 679-313866; Fax +679-300248
Contact person on SYB/IYB Mr. Robert Zegers