The Young Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands (YECSI) calls on Cabinet to reconsider its stance on the proposed temporary ban on Facebook and highlight the need for Cabinet to conduct robust dialogue with stakeholders before making a decision to that effect.
YECSI supports the development and empowerment of both aspiring and current young business owners as a means to alleviate high youth unemployment rate in the country.
With more than 50 present members engaged in diverse industries from barbers, music, agriculture, tourism to professional services; the majority heavily rely on Facebook as a marketing, advertising and information channel to sustain their businesses.
As days pass and the severity of the FB Ban issue increases as a reality, YECSI members are seriously concerned about the further detrimental impacts the ban would have on their businesses.
For Julian Maetoloa, Director and owner of Empire Barber, Facebook is the main platform to communicate with his customers. “Empire uses Facebook for marketing and advertising the products and services we provide. Shutting it down will have a huge impact on our business.” said Maetoloa.
Neweye, another small business operating in the agriculture sector, expressed its concern stating that banning Facebook should not be the option for Cabinet at the first place because of the negative effect it would have on small businesses.
“This banning of Facebook, in my view, will surely and drastically cut down the channel process in reaching my markets,” said Moses Michael, owner of Neweye.
While COVID-19 impacts are already causing suffering to many young businesses in the country with declining sales and unwanted downscaling, young entrepreneurs are now incredibly anxious about the sustainability of their businesses if their trusted marketplace is removed from their business equation to survive.
YECSI Chairlady, Millicent Barty, shares huge concerns of the “new normal” the organisation has been promoting and exercising since the start of the year as initiatives to help members adapt to impacts of COVID-19.
“We [YECSI] have invested a lot of our resources and we’ve been working extremely hard on providing our members trainings to help them adapt and be better prepared for the immediate future.” she states.
“The promotion of digital marketing trainings have been the centre of how we’ve envisaged the “new normal” for young SI businesses as an asset to survive this pandemic, and now, we’re being denied the most effective marketplace [Facebook] and business tool accessible to us which raises huge uncertainties and dismisses how we and the rest of the world popularly perceive this new normal.”
YECSI in partnership with Strongim Bisnis launched its ‘Ennovation Blo Iumi’ program in July to harness technological advancements and innovation to promote entrepreneurship under the theme “Innovating for Uncertainties [COVID-19 inspired]”.
The program was a huge success affording 40 young aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn and build business models with 3 winners of the program currently undergoing incubation of their start-ups at YECSI. The incubation period aims to support the growth of these businesses with finance and mentorship support to officially launch next year.
As one of the participants of the program, Tulagi Tours, is a classic example of a local tourist operator, based in Tulagi, that has been substantially affected by the pandemic and has had to diversify and innovate on social media with new domestic tour packages.
Managing Director of Tulagi Tours, Richard Sapia, asserted the current proposal will badly affect their business as a tour operator that has been struggling already to survive amidst the pandemic. “Facebook is an important tool to keep my business going in such hard times, I am of the view that cabinet must please reconsider,” said Sapia.
“We would barely maintain our sales and growth if Facebook is banned or even suspended for a certain period of time”, MNEM Investment said in a statement to YECSI.
MNEM Investment is an agri-business and emphasizes the importance of Facebook when it comes to doing business especially because it’s a fast, affordable and easy way of selling its products.
YECSI Chairlady acknowledges that Facebook as a virtual platform offers better business functionalities and measured insights through its interface and tools compared to other social media platforms. “FB is the most effectively designed avenue for young businesses to thrive and we mustn’t forget that, demographically, most targeted customers for our small businesses are active members of Facebook.”
In light of concerns its members raised and the likely negative impact the proposed ban would have on small businesses, YECSI appeals to cabinet to go back to the drawing boards and consider alternatives that can achieve effective compromises to ensure businesses can survive.