Australian group seeks BoP business opportunities
Friday, June 5, 2009
AT THE tail end of a business conference in the pretty Papua New Guinean coastal town of Madang late last month, a posse of high-powered Australian suits slipped into tropical mufti, climbed aboard a charter plane and flew deep into the wilds of the Southern Highlands interior.
Dropping into remote villages over three days, they visited markets and surveyed crops, talked to tribal elders and field workers. They asked lots of questions about how people were making a living, what they bought and sold, and what tools and services might make life easier and trade more profitable.
“What can we do to help?” they wanted to know. No, they were not a charity, they insisted. They were here to do business — sharing know-how in the short term, with a long-term view to turning a profit.
The executives were from companies including Oil Search, Fair Trade, Macquarie Bank, Visy, Goodman Fielder, Agility Logistics and Nestle. Their mission? A reconnoitre for the fledgling Melbourne-based venture Business for Millennium Development (B4MD) — an AusAID-supported group set up to encourage Australian companies looking for direct business and trade opportunities with poor communities in the Asia-Pacific.
The B4MD project, according to one of those on the trip, Oil Search managing director and PNG veteran Peter Botten, represents “the first time there has ever been a co-ordinated approach to doing business with the poor in PNG”.