COVID-19 Economic Recovery Support

What was the Opportunity?

With the emergence of COVID-19, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have experienced protracted upheaval and uncertainty. Many businesses owners have been and continue to face substantial declines in revenue. This, combined with ongoing uncertainty, is having a negative impact on their mental health and ability to keep operating.

SMEs play a vital role in the economic health of metropolitan, rural and remote communities in PNG. They contribute $2.5 billion to the PNG economy, employ 291,348 people[1] and connect thousands more to market.

In February 2019, the economic impacts of the virus known as COVID-19 began to materialise, shocking economies globally and wreaking havoc on SMEs in Papua New Guinea (PNG).



In PNG, the tourism sector lost K65.9 million overnight[2]. The closure of markets and restrictions to movement meant that thousands more SMEs and informal businesses were unable to trade, and many are having to reinvent their business models entirely. Within two months, 84% reported a decline in income (58% a significant decline)[3]; with female-owned/led businesses disproportionately affected.

It has been widely observed that the global pandemic is having a disproportionate, negative impact on women’s economic activities and their control over the income they earn. 78 per cent of female-owned/led businesses are reporting a significant decline in revenue in contrast to 60 per cent of male-owned/led businesses. More female-owned/led businesses have had to temporarily close (41%) in comparison to their male counterparts (29%). Consequently, female-owned/led businesses are less confident their business will survive compared to male-owned/led businesses.

In direct response, TDi, with the support of the Australian Government through the PNG-Australia Partnership, launched an “adaptation” coaching pilot program in June 2020.
The pilot program aimed to increase the ability of high potential SMEs, who have worked with TDi and the PNG-Australia Partnership in the past, to survive the crisis and to experience less stress.

Tell us the ‘Nitty Gritty’ details…

The program aimed to support these businesses to adapt and survive the challenges presented by COVID-19. We agreed that the program needed to address both technical and mindset aspects of business management, requiring strategic business advice and skilful emotional support.

Over four months, TDi provided 201 hours of complex business and mindset coaching to 20 businesses across five locations including Goroka, Alotau, Wewak, Port Moresby and the Markham Valley. The majority of these businesses were women-owned and led. They spanned tourism, creative and cultural industries, as well as agriculture and services.

The coaching was high quality, practical and responsive
We delivered flexible and tactical coaching to suit individual business needs and drive strong outcomes.
The needs of each business differed greatly. Principal challenges identified in the baseline survey related to cashflow (46%), operational roadblocks (46%), securing new business (31%) and workforce capacity and capability (23%).

The coaching included mindset work and emotional support
Coaching actively focused on the business owner’s mindset, helping them to process difficult emotions like anxiety and grief and unlock their full potential and address personal barriers.
In addition to its influence on personal stress (covered above), mindset coaching acknowledges and addresses personal barriers and helps to provide clarity and hold uncertainty.

The coaches understood the PNG context
TDi has strong local experience working alongside SMEs in PNG for over three years.
As an organisation, we have formed a strong bond with our Pacific neighbour and share a genuine passion for her prosperity and success.

The entrepreneurs we worked with are natural leaders and committed community leaders
The majority of the 20 businesses that received ongoing coaching are strong entrepreneurs and community leaders. Having been previously selected for other high value programs, these women and men represent some of the best SME leaders across the country. They are brave, determined, natural leaders with learned business acumen (from business and programs) and hands-on approach. Participants are largely adaptable, optimistic and have humility and an openness to external opinion.

The pilot ran for four months and has achieved significant outcomes.

The Outcome…

Key findings include:

  • The program enhanced the ability of participating businesses to adapt and survive -93% agreed or strongly agreed that the coaching program increased their chance of business survival
  • The program supported business owners to feel less stressed
  • The program provided high quality, appropriate and responsive support including strategic adaptation coaching, mindset coaching and emotional support
  • Existing trust (earned and built through past programs) and the calibre of the selected entrepreneurs also contributed to program results
  • 100% of participating business owners would highly recommend this program to others and 100% strongly or very strongly agreed that other SMEs will benefit from the type of support provided.


Based on the above results, the pilot program helped to defend the survival of approximately 19 SMEs[4], who provide a primary income for 3,300 other small and micro businesses, in turn supporting 16,700 people across PNG[5].

“…having a good coach kept us accountable to ourselves and to keeping the business moving forward with innovation…we saw the dollars as a result.” – Tapioca Delight.

Based on the success of this pilot, we are now working with CIPE’s PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre (WBRC) and #pngauspartnership to build local capability to work alongside us so that together we can extend coaching support to 100 SMEs across PNG.
Find out more here


[1] SME Policy 2016:

[2] Business Advantage PNG: new-guinea/

[3] Pacific Business Monitor – Survey 1:

[4] 93% of 20 (or 18.6) businesses agreed or strongly agreed that the coaching program increased their chance of business survival

[5] Extrapolated from 13 responses to the baseline survey employing more than 80 employees and support over 2170 additional micro and small businesses.