As CEO for the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, Hobart Vaai describes the growth of the private sector he represents as “unprecedented”.
“Our organisation has evolved, with a huge turnaround to what a traditional Chamber looks like or is perceived as,” he says.
“It’s a more dynamic organisation now. We’re in a good space to challenge ourselves to evolve and be in tune with what today’s business community in Samoa needs.”
Samoa’s economy has grown significantly in recent years, with the agriculture growing alongside tourism, the No 1 earner. But what excites Hobart are the opportunities provided by greater and more affordable access to the digital platforms from underwater cables across the Pacific region.
“Most of our traditional island economies are based on agriculture, but because of distance and scale, that’s where our aspirations were set,” says Hobart.
“But now there are far more economic and learning opportunities they can access online from anywhere in the world. The Chamber has recently signed a partnership with the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) to co-ordinate a youth co-lab international movement, providing a platform for young entrepreneurs to pitch ideas.
“It’s challenging their mindset and has only been going for a couple of months. The opportunities being provided is growing so fast, like sending youth over to China to speak to potential investors. It’s crazy, but exciting.”
The Samoa Chamber of Commerce’s youth arm also has the growing challenge of climate change in its sights.
“We understand its potential impact and want members to be aware of the challenges and potential opportunities. Like most of the world, the impact of plastic has been significant and needs to be dealt with by us all.”
The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated represents all areas of Samoa’s private sector.
Although originally formed in the early 1900s by the Merchants in Apia, it was revived and took its current form in the 1970s. The Chamber now has more than 400 members representing a cross sector of Samoa’s business community and includes three key private sector organisations, Samoa for Real, WIBDI and BOSA (Chamber of Savaii).