Startups in Kiribati.

Kiribati is the first piece of dry land on Earth to meet the New Year. This fact is widely appreciated by international tourists. At the same time, Kiribati 33islets are only 1–2 centimeters above the sea level and they will be first victims of the global warming in this century.

Kiribati is also one of the youngest geological formations on the Planet and hadn’t have enough time to form a layer of fertile soils to make an agriculture industry possible. As a result there are only 20 endemic plants on those islands.

Up to the the mid-20th century one of Kiribati’s islands — Banaba had been the major source of phosphates for World fertilizers industry but those deposits have long been depleted. Today Kiribati economy is mostly relying on external sources of revenues such as payments for fishery licenses, tourists proceeds and international assistance programs.

After gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, the Republic adopted a multi-party, parliamentarian system of governance. Unicameral, 46-members local Parliament — Maneaba ni Maungatabu — has two political parties: Pillars of Truth (26 seats) and Tobwaan Kiribati Party (19 seats).

However, Kiribati politics is traditionally based on personal relationships rather than on ideological platforms. Small size of local constituencies makes it even more personal often reducing political issues to inter families scrabbles. Currently, one of the most contentious issues is the voluntary cessation of one of the Kiribati islands to Fiji.

Kiribati, due to its tiny population, extreme geographical isolation and poverty, isn’t an appropriate place to launch a high-tech enterprise at all. Kiribati economy is small, old-fashion and largely depends on external financial aid. Local satellite Internet connections aren’t cheap. Qualified personnel is virtually absent and seed capital is unavailable. Without major changes in investment climate and government approach to innovations any positive improvements of local startup ecosystem is not feasible.

Business Notes for Startups Founders:

  • political climate: indifferent;
  • economic climate: not friendly;
  • regions to focus: locally;
  • industries to focus: e-services (tourism);
  • major limitations: small economy (GDP is under $170 millions) which is largely relying on the international aid, low-income (per-capita’s around $1600) population under 120,000 people, geographical isolation, lack of qualified personnel, high telecommunication costs, fixed Internet penetration rate is low (14%);
  • stimulus: absence of competition;
  • opportunities: to build a small e-businesses orientated on niche groups of users.