The objective of BizPAct (Business-Peace-Action) is to establish a platform to attract investment to sustain and grow regional enterprises throughout Sri Lanka – to give our regional entrepreneurs a hand- up – to build our economy from the bottom-up. This is a long term project that started nearly two years ago, guided by BPA’s eminent Enterprise Steering Committee of experts. Over 50 SME projects from all regions of Sri Lanka have already been evaluated and screened. More projects will continue to be evaluated and presented to investors.
The objectives of the Symposium were: • to launch BizPAct, • to explore opportunities for investment in joint venture partnerships, • to afford an opportunity for regional SME’s to present their proposals and showcase products, • to recognize the needs and expectations of the regions, • to recognize the context of the regions, • to recognize the needs and expectations of investors – local, foreign, and our diaspora, • to attract partners to support BPA financially in this endeavor.
The Keynote address delivered at the inaugural conference, by the Hon. Minister of Public Administration and Internal Affairs, and Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, described the new era of opportunity that has dawned in Sri Lanka and emphasized the need for private sector led economic growth. The Hon. Minister commended the BPA for the timely initiative and approach taken.
The highlight of the inaugural event was the presentation of the 20 regional projects that were selected as examples of SME investment opportunities from various regions of Sri Lanka. The 20 regional entrepreneurs with the selected proposals were able to personally present their projects and products to the participants. One to one meetings between entrepreneurs and potential investors were also arranged.
Over a period of three days following the inaugural conference, 50 participants, including 25 diaspora, visited the regions and saw some of these projects first-hand. The participants divided in two groups with a group of 35 visiting Trincomalee District and a group of 15 visiting Hambantota, Matara, and Galle Districts.
The context in which each of the projects operated was realized – the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities were discussed. Meetings at each of the District Chambers of Commerce allowed the participants to meet a wider group of local entrepreneurs and discuss opportunities and challenges in each District.
Upon returning from the regions, a wrap-up conference was held to discuss the outcome of the regional visits. A diaspora panel representing Australia, Germany, UAE, UK and USA, and a high level policymaker panel, representing the Foreign Ministry, the Peace Secretariat, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, the BOI, the National Chamber of Exporters, Employers Federation and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism, led the discussion.
The diaspora highlighted the need for developing the following priority skills of the SME’s: • Communication/presentation/social skills • Business/financial planning and management skills • English and IT skills • Product development • Marketing
Regional Chambers of Commerce were seen as a strong mechanism through which to deliver the skills development needs of the SME’s. The bottom-up role that can be played by these Chambers in responsible dialog with policy makers and to bridge the gap between the center and the periphery was seen as necessity. Capacity building of these regional chambers was identified as an important priority.
The BPA’s role as the focal point for the regional chambers and the facilitator of BizPAct was endorsed by all.
Looking forward, the BPA is developing the BizPAct Blog Website “ www.bizpact.org ” as a platform for INFORMATION, INTERACTION, INVESTMENT and INQUIRY – focusing on joint ventures with regional SME’ s. A database of project proposals will be maintained online where investors can identify opportunities that interest them. The website will also maintain a database of investors and their interests for pairing up with local partners. The site will act as a clearing house of information concerning investment opportunities and investor interests. The website will be updated regularly with information on the progress of BizPAct. User expectations are to be captured, so that a useful, user friendly and dynamic Blog Website can be maintained.
The BPA is also in the process of designing a mechanism to provide expert services to the entrepreneurs and investors that include: • Development of Business Plans • Providing Business and Financial Management and Advisory Services • Providing Business Incubation Services • Providing Secretarial and Legal Services • Providing Government Coordination and Linkages • Providing Monitoring and Evaluation Services
The BPA together with professionals in the field are also developing a set of Guiding Principles for Context Sensitive Investment in the r