For Investment in Kiribati, There’s a Long Road Ahead

Video | 19 September 2019

For Kiribati supermarket wholesale owner Rosarie Kum Kee, the construction of a road financed by ADB’s Asian Development Fund and other donors has helped transform her business and the quality of life here. However, greater investment remains critical for modernizing the private sector and upgrading services on the isolated Pacific nation.

Transcript

South Tarawa, Kiribati – Kiribati is one of the poorest and most remote countries on earth. One in four people live in poverty and 30% are unemployed. So, Kiribati has a strong need for long-term investment that helps businesses create jobs, grow the economy, and improve lives.

Moel Trading is a retail and wholesaler in Kiribati, it’s one of the main distributors for grocery goods. For our wholesale section, we deliver up to 500 stores, local shops. And then we deliver to the outer islands as well. We have more than 200 employees. We’re a successful business here in Kiribati, but it’s still very hard.”

ELECTRICITY

“Electricity is one of our main expenses monthly. Normally our freezers downstairs, the containers outside, it would use so much electricity. So, we usually shut it down, we disconnect it and we use the generator to power it up.”

E-COMMERCE

“Most of our business is run by paper because we still do everything manually. Having things online would make things so much easier for our company because it’ll save us time as well.”

BUSINESS CLIMATE

“One of the challenges that we face would be to register our company. That’ll take up to 30 days. And then there’s other issues as well with land, it’ll take another 30 days and to build your shop would take probably a month.

It makes it really difficult for Kiribati companies to expand to other outer islands. And if they could invest in electricity or for faster internet that would also help us. Not only us but our customers as well so they can have access to online shopping and make it easier for them to buy our products. Kiribati needs more investment like our road.”  Rosarie Kum Kee, Businesswoman

 “This is the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project, the longest and biggest in the country. And it’s made up of 40 kilometers of paved road and roadpaths.” Teatao Tira, ADB Senior Country Officer, Kiribati

“Having this new road has been very helpful for us as a private company. It’s saved us a lot of time as well and a lot of money. We had to repair trucks every week before the road was fixed. Delivering products could take up to 2-3 hours. And now with the new road, we deliver within an hour. And our customers are happy as well because they don’t have to catch public transport just to buy their goods.” Rosarie Kum Kee, Businesswoman

The road was funded by ADB, thanks to Asian Development Bank donors, the World Bank Group, and the Australian and Kiribati governments.

It opened in 2016 and is already helping drive economic growth.

“The new road’s enabled us to deliver to more stores and our customers now have opened up local shops in their villages as well.” Rosarie Kum Kee, Businesswoman

“The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project is one good example of strong partnership and assistance from international and donor partners. It has been highly appreciated by the people and it has brought a lot of benefits to social and economic activities in Kiribati. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. Because Kiribati needs more projects and developments like this.” Teatao Tira, ADB Senior Country Officer, Kiribati