Simon Draper's May 2023 Update

It’s been a busy month for the Foundation since my last Executive Director's Update, and a particularly busy one for our business and entrepreneurship programmes as they gear up to take delegations to Asia (specifically Singapore and Thailand) for the first time since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

In Singapore, nine emerging Māori food and beverage business leaders will visit the country to learn about the F&B scene and explore market opportunities. From there, the group will travel to Thailand where they will join up with 70 leading entrepreneurs and emerging business leaders from New Zealand and Southeast Asia, many of whom are alumni of the Foundation’s Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI), to further explore business opportunities, network and hear from industry leaders and NZ Inc representatives.

These two events, which I’ll go into in more detail in next month’s update, are kick-starting our business programme’s in-country engagement with Asia – once again putting feet on the ground so New Zealand business leaders can experience what makes Asia the most dynamic and exciting part of the world to do business. With some 90 participants and staff involved, the Thailand component of the programme will be the largest off-shore event the Foundation has ever run.

The importance of putting feet on the ground and making in-person connections in Asia was emphasised by Foundation-sponsored speaker Dominic Barton at last week’s Institute of Directors (IoD) Leadership Conference. The Foundation was well represented at the meeting, which I attended alongside Foundation staff, board members and Leadership Network members.

Barton, who has decades of business experience in Asia and served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2019-2021, spoke about the economic powershift that is occurring, but which many in the West have failed to recognise the full extent of. Asia has been on the rise for some time now, but many New Zealand businesspeople view the region through out-of-date, 1990’s-tinted glasses.

One of Barton’s key messages to the directors in the room was for them to get into the region and experience it for themselves - noting there is no better way to build understanding (both business and cultural) and connections that will serve them well when doing business with Asia.

It was encouraging to hear Barton stress this point - it is a message the Foundation has been articulating and putting in to practice for some time – and it is a critical one to get across to New Zealand audiences, especially those looking to do business in the region.

Staying with business, I’ll quickly flag the Foundation’s partnership with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce to hold a summit in June looking at the new technologies and practices that are transforming the way people consume food.

The two keynote speakers at The Future of Consumption – Aspire Asia Aotearoa summit, Brian Cu and Dr Sandhya Sriram, are making waves in the F&B sector in their respective countries and will, no doubt, provide fascinating insights into what it takes to build a thriving startup in the region.

You can find out about the speakers and register for the event through this link.

Brian and Sandhya will be in New Zealand to take part in the Foundation’s visit for Southeast Asian agribusiness entrepreneurs and business leaders next month. The visit will see eight business leaders from Southeast Asia attend Fieldays in Hamilton and E Tipu agri-summit  in Christchurch, as well as meet with agribusiness leaders to develop a greater knowledge of the agricultural sector in New Zealand and explore ways to collaborate.

Last week, director of research and Track II engagement, Suz Jessep, and senior advisor research and engagement, Dr James To, visited Fiji and Vanuatu to meet with a diverse range of Pacific experts to hear their thoughts on how their countries are managing their Asia relations and viewing the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a new geostrategic construct.

The visit came about in response to the growing demand from our Asian partners in our Track II dialogues to discuss the Pacific and, in particular, China’s relations and investments there.

The visit provided an opportunity for Suz and James to hear first-hand a variety of Pacific voices about their assessment of regional order and their role in it. Suz and James will be sharing their insights through upcoming Track II dialogues and an article for the Foundation website.

Finally, I’d like to welcome three new trustees to the Foundation’s board. They are Hongyu (Carol) Cheng, Mitchell Pham and Tina Porou. The three of them bring unique skill sets to the board as well as expertise and connections that will serve the Foundation well and support us to achieve our mandate of helping as many New Zealanders as possible to thrive in Asia. I’m looking forward to working with them in coming weeks and months. You can find out more about Carol, Mitchell and Tina here.

Ngā mihi nui,

Simon Draper