Editorial: Action needed on Indigenous enterprise

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It's long past time for corporate Canada to tap the potential of the country’s Indigenous business sector.

Developing it promises to pay off significantly on reserve and off.

Consider human resources numbers for a start.

Canada’s Indigenous population is growing faster and is comparatively younger than its non-Indigenous counterpart.

But there are more than population numbers at work here.

The size and confidence of Indigenous enterprise is growing rapidly, and that enterprise is fundamental to Canada’s long-term economic success as the country’s overall population ages and the need for dynamic contributions from all demographic quarters grows.

The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) noted in a report released earlier this year that just over 24% of the country’s Indigenous small and medium-sized businesses now export their products.

Indigenous-Owned Exporting Small and Medium Enterprises in Canada also pointed out that “the size and diversity of the Indigenous business economy in Canada is much larger than is generally understood, with current operations accounting for billions of dollars in annual operations, with thousands of employees and one of the fastest growth rates in the country.”

However, significant challenges remain for Indigenous entrepreneurs.

A more recent CCAB report noted that most companies in the Canadian investment chain are not plugged into the economic and investment opportunities offered by Indigenous enterprise (“Firms Fumbling Reconciliation Investment Opportunities” – Business in Vancouver issue 1561; October 1–7).

The CCAB’s export report also emphasized the need for more business education and training to improve the success rate for Indigenous entrepreneurs.

It noted that, while the Indigenous population is Canada’s youngest and fastest-growing demographic, it is also handicapped with comparatively lower education levels. Financing and digital connectivity are other roadblocks facing Indigenous businesses.

Progress in resolving these fundamental issues must be addressed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses across Canada if the country is to reap the significant benefits that Indigenous enterprise holds for all Canadians.