Remarks to webinar: E-Commerce Opportunities for indigenous and ethnic minorities: bringing innovation, expanding markets, and unleashing potential

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Trade In The News







E ngā mana

E ngā reo

E ngā maunga whakahi

Tēnā koutou katoa

Tēnei te mihi maioha ki a koutou katoa i tēnei rā

I’m looking ahead to two hundred years from now when my descendants and yours will be managing the earth’s resources. 

Like our ancestors before us, and like us today, they’ll be adapting to new technologies.

They’ll be applying the knowledge handed down to us that we’ll have transmitted to them. 

They’ll be speaking the languages our lands remember and living according to their Indigenous values. 

They’ll be leaders contributing to shaping the world in all its dimensions.

They’ll be the earth’s caretakers, while the earth takes care of them. 

That future vision fills my energy stores in the work I do and how I choose to be now – a good ancestor.  

It is this future that drives me in my role as a parent and whānau member, as a wahine Māori business leader, as an Indigenous entrepreneur, as a member of my tribes and as the Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council. 

In outlining my vision for this future, I am speaking in all these roles.

For me, that future must be premised on the basis of inclusion. Because frankly, exclusion has no place in an economic recovery of the proportions we need to save our planet and care for our descendants. 

In the Putrajaya Vision, APEC Economic Leaders highlighted just how important inclusion is.  

They made clear that the entire purpose of creating an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community is “for the prosperity of all our people and future generations”.

In a similar spirit, our theme in ABAC this year is “Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura” which translates to “People, Place and Prosperity”.

Our focus places the needs and interests of people at the heart of everything we do.   

As business leaders, we recognise that we cannot be truly prosperous, or sustainable, if we leave behind individuals or groups in our communities – especially when often those are the very people, ngā tāngata, that have suffered most acutely through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indigenous communities have not often featured in APEC discussions – despite our weighty population numbers.  

For centuries, Indigenous people have endured inequitable economic outcomes as Economic Leaders have often failed to recognise the potential contribution of our economies to the region’s wider prosperity and growth.    

As Indigenous peoples, many of us have maintained our traditional knowledge systems and enhanced our know-how in a way that is not just benefiting our own communities but continues to stimulate the wider economy and help accelerate growth more broadly.

It is clear that digital is a key enabler for success and resilience for our businesses.

It offers the opportunity to leverage new business models, including e-commerce platforms, websites and social media – or even all three at once.   

The benefits that can be gained through using those channels are complemented by the adoption of other digital tools, such as blockchain and digital logistics, cloud computing, fintech and others.  

These business models tend to have a lighter environmental footprint.  This is more closely aligned our values – sustainability and living in harmony with the land.  

These new models also enable us to create and share greater value.

By way of example, I look to our Māori agribusinesses operated by Māori land trusts, incorporations and iwi organisations that practice kaitiakitanga across all parts of their business operations.

Indeed, Wakatū Incorporation is very close to my heart.

Firstly, as a shareholder through my whakapapa but also as the former Chief Executive of Kono an associated business of Wakatū.

For Wakatū, 70 percent of our assets are held in whenua – land – and to protect those assets for our descendants, we operate on a 500 year intergenerational plan.

Through our Kono business we are among the country’s top 100 food and beverage producers and exporters of premium wine, seafood, fruit and natural fruit bars.

Through our Au Ora business we are a consumer-focused, health-solutions business with the focus on active ingredients and wellbeing solutions, obtained from the natural resources of Wakatū.

Like other Māori businesses, Wakatū has utilised e-commerce for a range of reasons including to reduce the costs of trade, to increase the integrity of our supply chains, and to circumvent many of the traditional challenges in trade, including cultural biases and accessing finance, information and networks. 

E-commerce can enable more companies to reach new and higher-value customers through being able to tell a compelling, competitive and trusted story in global markets. 

By tapping into the creativity and storytelling that is in our DNA, Indigenous businesses can showcase the provenance and the stories of our ancestors that resonate with new consumer markets.

As Indigenous business owners, e-commerce has the potential to help us capture more value to build resilience into our businesses. 

So how do we create an optimal environment?    

The pandemic accelerated the digitalisation of the Asia-Pacific economy by a decade.   The businesses that have done best through this disrupted period used digital channels and tools.   

Digital has shifted from being a nice-to-have to a must-have.

As Indigenous business owners, we will need to become more digitalised to succeed in this new landscape.   

We ABAC and APEC members have a good general starting point.  

This includes the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap.  It also includes the strong advocacy by the business community, led by ABAC, for greater capacity-building and interoperability in digital trade, alongside boosting Indigenous economic development.  

ABAC also hosted its first-ever Indigenous Business Dialogue earlier this year, in which some agribusinesses and a diversity of other sectors were able to connect and agree some key messages, including around the importance of the digital infrastructure needs of Indigenous communities.  

Most recently, we have the new Food Security Roadmap Towards 2030 which Ministers endorsed in August.  This acknowledges both the importance of the digital transformation of food systems as well as recognising the need to unlock the economic potential of Indigenous peoples. 

All of this points strongly to amplifying the Indigenous economic inclusion work taking place through different parts of APEC’s and ABAC’s work programme. 

Priorities need to be infrastructure investment, targeted digital skills development and training, and supportive regulatory settings for e-commerce, including around data flows, paperless trade and the tax treatment of low-value e-commerce shipments.

There are many hurdles we will collectively need to overcome to support greater resilience and success for Indigenous businesses.   

But there is a compelling case to do so.  If we don’t support more Indigenous businesses to integrate into the digital economy, we risk further exacerbating the existing economic divide.   

 This is not just about extending a helping hand to those in need – it’s about tapping into a potential superpower – small, but mighty.

Whangaia, ka tupu, ka puawai

That which is nurtured will blossom and grow.

Kia ora – thank you.


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.

Latest News


Perhaps a cyclone was after all a fitting backdrop for the meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) which was held in Auckland on 12-14 February – the global environment against which the meeting took place is decidedly stormy.  In the event the wind...


As I write this end of year dispatch, NZIBF is preparing to host the first meeting for 2023 of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).  We are looking forward to welcoming the 200 or so business leaders and senior officials from APEC member economies across the...

NZ Herald: Time to lift our game in India

Following his recent visit to India our Executive Director Stephen Jacobi penned this article advocating a more strategic approach to the further development of the relationship. The article was published by the NZ Herald on 9 December.

APEC Rolls out Priorities for 2023

Issued by the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting - Honolulu, The United States, 13 December 2022 Aiming to provide tailwinds for member economies to strengthen recovery and resilience, as well as advance broad-based economic growth, the United States rolled out its...

NZIBF 2022 Chair Report

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2022 CHAIR’S REPORT I am pleased to present my second report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2022-23, our fifteenth year of operations.  At the outset I would like to thank Members for...


New Zealand business will be represented at the APEC Leaders’ Week in Bangkok, commencing 13 November, by members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). New Zealand’s three members – Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Anna Curzon – supported by Stephen Jacobi...

Submission to MFAT for CPTPP Review

30 September 2022 Phil Mellor Economic Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington (By email) Dear Phil, Thank you for your email of 1 September, seeking our comments on the three year review of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans...