So, what are TDi doing in the Pacific? Recently, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) implemented a new strategy in how they approach aid and development. They recognised that to achieve effective and sustainable reduction in poverty there must be a plan for sustainable economic growth.

TDi, having had experience 
in developing Investable Social Enterprises (ISEs) within an Australian context, were engaged by DFAT to put forward a pilot program in
 the Pacific to test how building capacity and growing ISEs could work in a development context. The challenge of bridging the gap from ‘aid to trade’ can be resolved through the development of investable enterprises that are able to attract private capital and move away from grant reliance. To achieve this, catalytic granting and the right capacity building are essential.

Our pilot initially focused on Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga. We began our work with a Community Asset Assessment, working in local communities at a grass roots level to understand the local context from a strengths-based approach. We were working to discover under-utilised assets – both raw materials, potential products and entrepreneurs themselves.

“TDi is the best donor-funded private sector development initiative I have witnessed in the Pacific over the last 20 years, and it’s sustainable"

- Caleb Jarvis, Pacific Islands Trade Commissioner

So what have we learnt? First and foremost we found an incredibly rich environment, from the volcanic soil to the perfect weather conditions; they can grow just about anything (acknowledging, of course, the cyclones that will appear every couple of years). We’ve encountered entrepreneurs who are trying to carve out a future for themselves, their families and their communities. However, they need support, encouragement and some fundamentals built into their businesses. There are incredible opportunities available through focusing on in-country value added to locally produced oils, cocoa and coffee. We’ve also encountered the well-known challenges that exist in the Pacific such as land ownership disputes, the frequency of cyclones and natural disasters which affect agricultural opportunities. And finally, the difficulty local businesses face when trying to access finance, to allow them to grow or scale.

"What I like about TDi is that their approach could really redefine the way that donor agencies provide support across the Pacific Islands region".

— Caleb Jarvis, Australian Trade Commissioner, Pacific Islands

In Tonga we’ve focused on the latter stages of our method, helping enterprises develop investable business models. In the coming months, we will be announcing our first investment in a local Tongan business, testing out what investment can look like in this region.

Our objective in this work is to prove that effective aid and development work needs to partner closely with economic development, to create sustainable futures and reduce grant reliance for the world’s poorest. Ultimately this is about mums and dads being able to access health and education for their children, and about families not being reliant on foreign aid, but instead having the opportunity to build their own future with dignity and respect.