The Hub and Spokes II programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.
It is a joint programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Radika Kumar, a trade adviser, has been working with the Ministry of Resources and Development in the Republic of Marshall Islands since 2014. Read her blog below:
Since 2014, I have been supporting the Republic of Marshall Islands Ministry of Resources and Development on trade development under the Hub and Spokes II programme.
For those of you who are not familiar with this unique part of the world, the Republic of Marshall Islands is located in the North Pacific, comprising an idyllic coral archipelago. The main island has a landmass totalling 180 square kilometres. With limited agricultural production caused by low nutrient levels in the soil, the islands’ people rely heavily on marine resources for their survival, hence the development of a marine Exclusive Economic Zone that stretches across an incredible 2.1 million square kilometres. The national Trade Policy Framework, developed in 2012, prioritises marine, tourism and agricultural sectors.
One of the key successes has been the ‘Be Marshallese, Buy Marshallese’ (BMBM) programme, an initiative launched July 2015 that was supported by the Hub and Spokes II programme and has had an important impact on trade. For example, at the first trade fair organised by the Ministry of Resources and Development, eight vendors made USD$40,000 in two days from the sale of Marshall Islands handicrafts, fish and fish products and coconut oil. This is a significant injection of income for a small economy, and was particularly welcome given that the main people who benefited were women from the local community. An important area of work under the initiative has been about empowering women in business and contributing to gender mainstreaming in trade.
To improve the domestic competitiveness in trade the BMBM programme has aimed to help with branding products that are exclusive to the Republic of Marshall Islands. This has been the case for Pandanus Juice, which is produced by Robert Reimers Associates and is now successfully marketed in New Zealand. The product has also received positive feedback from consumers and alcohol producers in France and Australia. The company can produce up to 3,000 bottles every month. The juice is marketed as an important source of vitamins, which helps, for example, to prevent immune system deficiencies.
One of my main roles has involved promoting the BMBM programme and getting buy-in from the private sector. In addition, I have helped with increasing branding awareness to distinguish local goods and boost their competitiveness in local market and with tourists. For example, the Pacific Pure Water bottled company has employed a new logo created through our support.
As part of the marketing campaign to boost awareness and visibility of the programme nationally, we have created a Be Marshallese, Buy Marshallese Facebook page. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on promoting Marshallese goods and services both domestically and for export to international markets. The overall aim is to increase sales, improve product quality and reduce import dependency. This will help buffer the domestic economy against external shocks by creating jobs and encouraging economic growth.
Please visit the Be Marshallese, Buy Marshallese Facebook page for the latest updates on the BMBM programme.