Spot­ted In

PNG trade an­a­lyst in Switzer­land

Paradise - - In Paradise | Contents -

Kevin McQuil­lan meets a Swiss-based Pa­pua New Guinean who is ad­vis­ing African na­tions how to ex­pand their economies.

Peo­ple who don’t know much, if any­thing, about PNG, ask about the peo­ple, the food, the en­vi­ron­ment and pol­i­tics.

Bon­a­pas On­gu­glo has been work­ing as a trade an­a­lyst at the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and De­vel­op­ment (UNCTAD) since 1984, ad­vis­ing African gov­ern­ments how to ex­pand their economies.

He sees many par­al­lels between African na­tions and Pa­pua New Guinea, which, he says, could draw on African suc­cess sto­ries, par­tic­u­larly in agri­cul­ture.

PNG could de­velop its agri­cul­ture sec­tor by cre­at­ing new prod­ucts specif­i­cally de­signed for ex­ports, he tells Par­adise.

At a prac­ti­cal level that would mean de­vel­op­ing and pro­mot­ing the clean, green na­ture of PNG’s or­ganic agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

But the seas around PNG also have huge po­ten­tial, he says, if viewed as “an ocean econ­omy”.

“What that means is not just make sus­tain­able use of fish in the exclusive eco­nomic zones, but to de­velop other ac­tiv­i­ties like coastal-based tourism, off­shore wind farm­ing, or ma­rine biotech­nol­ogy.

“The pro­posal be­comes even more in­ter­est­ing if PNG joins forces with other Pa­cific is­land coun­tries to form a re­gional seas pol­icy area,” he says.

For many Euro­peans, he says, PNG is an ex­otic coun­try.

“Peo­ple who don’t know much, if any­thing, about PNG, ask about the peo­ple, the food, the en­vi­ron­ment and pol­i­tics.

“They are al­ways amazed at the time it takes to go from Europe to PNG (more than 22 hours fly­ing time). They also can­not be­lieve when I tell them that we have over 800 lan­guages and as many, or more, di­alects. They al­ways ask how this is pos­si­ble on a small is­land.”

Born in Goroka, On­gu­glo’s par­ents, Peter and Anna Dinbi, are from Kerowagi in Simbu Province. It’s a place he brings his Euro­pean friends to visit.

“They love the place. Once we took a Bri­tish cou­ple to my mum’s vil­lage in Kerowagi. They saw a sing-sing group. An­other time we took a French woman to Kerowagi. She also trav­elled the High­lands High­way to Madang. She loved the ex­pe­ri­ence. My daugh­ter also had her friends visit on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions.”

Equally, On­gu­glo wants more Pa­pua New Guineans to live over­seas, “be­cause it tends to be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence over­all”.

“I be­lieve in in­ter-cul­tural ex­changes to de­velop sol­i­dar­ity, har­mony and un­der­stand­ing

The seas around PNG have huge po­ten­tial. What that means is not just make sus­tain­able use of fish in the exclusive eco­nomic zones, but to de­velop other ac­tiv­i­ties like coastal­based tourism, off­shore wind farm­ing, or ma­rine biotech­nol­ogy.

among peo­ples be­cause ul­ti­mately we live on one small planet in one so­lar sys­tem, in one galaxy.”

He looks to the next gen­er­a­tion to ex­pand net­works between PNG and Europe.

As well as an an­nual mumu in Ger­many, PNG in­de­pen­dence day is cel­e­brated in Brus­sels and the UK. He no­tices on his two-yearly trips home the changes tak­ing place in Port Moresby and Lae – cof­fee houses, fash­ion and cloth­ing stores are open­ing up.

And his ex­pe­ri­ences in Africa show the po­ten­tial for cre­ative Pa­pua New Guineans to show­case their cul­ture in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“I was in­volved in or­gan­is­ing a Kenyan fash­ion show that en­abled lo­cal fash­ion houses and de­sign­ers to ex­hibit eco­log­i­cally and eth­i­cally chic fash­ion. It was a ma­jor hit at an UNCTAD con­fer­ence in Nairobi in July 2016,” he says.

On­gu­glo was ed­u­cated at Mount Ha­gen Pri­mary School and Ha­gen Park High School, then earned an honours de­gree in eco­nom­ics at the Univer­sity of PNG, and then won a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship to go to Van­der­bilt Univer­sity in Ten­nessee. There, he ob­tained a master of arts, ma­jor­ing in in­ter­na­tional eco­nom­ics.

He joined the United Na­tions in 1984 as part of a drive to recruit young pro­fes­sion­als from un­der­rep­re­sented mem­ber coun­tries. PNG was one such coun­try at the time and still is to­day, he re­marks.

“We (my wife, Paula Kate, also from Kerowagi) found Switzer­land dif­fi­cult at first as it was a (partly) French-speak­ing coun­try. It made it hard to in­te­grate. Also it was, and is still, ex­pen­sive. And it was far away from our fam­i­lies in PNG. But we en­joyed – and still en­joy – the small­ness and green­ness of Switzer­land.”

Bon­a­pas On­gu­glo … is look­ing to the next gen­er­a­tion to ex­pand net­works between PNG and Europe.

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