October 15, 2018

2018 World Indigenous Business Forum showcasing indigenous business and trade

The 9th annual World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) was held in Rotorua 9-11 October 2018, the first time the event has been hosted in Aotearoa. The forum was first held in New York City in 2010 and 2011, and has also been hosted in Namibia, Guatemala, Canada and Chile. Te Ohu Wai Ao* organised the Rotorua event, with Chair Richard Jefferies lobbying since 2012 for the right to host.

Around 1,000 delegates attended the forum, including first nations people from Australia, Taiwan, Canada, United States of America, Nigeria, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Chile, Norway, the Pacific, Colombia and more.

WIBF has a track record for building meaningful and long-term relationships between indigenous businesses, but the kaupapa was wider than business and trade – environmental concerns, building the indigenous leadership pipeline, and supporting communities were part of the kōrero (conversations) happening in all corners of the conference.

The WIBF programme featured cultural interactions, field trips to Māori businesses in forestry, agribusiness, kiwifruit, tourism and geothermal industries, and high profile indigenous speakers and panels from around the globe on themes including:

  • Āpōpō – Imagining Indigenous Economic Futures
  • Hangarau – Technology in Indigenous Business
  • Whanaungatanga – Indigenous Business Collaborating Globally
  • Ngā Uri O Maui – Indigenous Entrepreneurship
  • Mana Wahine – Indigenous Global Women Growing Business
  • Kaitiaki Taiao – Indigenous Business Responsibility and the Environment
  • Hāpai Te Hāpori – Building Communities through Business.

Rachel Taulelei, the CEO of Kono NZ talked about how human capital will unlock Māori potential and the importance of capability development in indigenous business. There was a strong focus on self-determination in her keynote on the first day of the forum, with a call for values-led leadership in areas of need and an acknowledgement that indigenous wellbeing includes land and water.

The value of wai (water) and whenua (land) were also discussed by the very inspiring Rangatahi (Youth) Panel** who affirmed these were part of Māori whakapapa (lineage) and Papatuanuku (earth) needed to be at the forefront of every decision. They also put out a wero (challenge) to businesses: What are you doing to ensure rangatahi/youth have a voice in decisions that affect their futures? The group requested a seat at the table as a way of sharing intergenerational knowledge and learning from each other. Digital inequity was mentioned with the cost of devices and connectivity a barrier to young people accessing information and opportunities.

Systems for people don’t change as fast as technology, said Roger Dennis, futurist and “serendipity architect”, and the current political climate is a result of people yearning for nostalgia due to the pace of change. He talked about the 2022 skills outlook with increasing need for creativity, empathy  and critical thinking, and rules-based skills decreasing. Roger Dennis spoke of the onset of “dark factories” where lights are not needed because machines are doing everything, and said complex systems were easy to pull apart in hindsight but impossible to foresee – we don’t yet know the consequences of techological change and warned of the “magpie effect” of looking for the next shiny thing.

Raj Patel, writer, activist and academic from the UK, explored the idea of food sovereignty, the inherent right of a community to identify its own food systems and choose the food on its table, and it’s essential role in decolonisation. He asserted food is culture and culture is the medicine for people, so we need to put the culture back in agriculture.

*The Te Ohu Whai Ao Charitable Trust’s purpose is to advance Māori business interests nationally and internationally supporting Indigenous-to-Indigenous trade and development.

** The Rangatahi Panel were Brittany Teei (Founder/CEO of KidsCoin, financial literacy software), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (All Black), Tania Tapsell (elected as Rotorua City Councillor at 21yrs), Sheridan Beer (Starlight Design, tech/drone company), Rahiri Edwards-Hammond (CEO of social enterprise Project Rangatahi and inaugural GirlBoss award winner), and Waimirirangi Koopu-Stone (Director of Kāwai Catalyst, and co-Founder of  Pipiri Ki A Papatūānuku, a social movement encouraging sustainable choices).