I’m on my way to Fiji in November for an interesting meet-up.
Where’s Fiji and why are you going?
First, Fiji is an island country north of New Zealand. It’s an ~eight hour or so, direct flight out of Los Angeles, CA.
Why am I going? A group of intrepid entrepreneurs is building a resilient community there and they asked me to attend their November meet-up to think through the specifics.
Of course, you are welcome to join me at their meet-up if you are interested (I’m not getting paid for this except the cost of the trip). I’m planning to be there an entire week since it looks like a very interesting group of people to spend time with.
So, why is a resilient community being developed in Fiji?
That’s the same question I asked Mark Wallace when he gave me a call last month.
Who is Mark? He’s the co-founder of Capex Ltd, a company that searches the world for entrepreneurial opportunities in edge markets. He and his partner Chris Tell run an excellent blog.
Mark called to ask me for input on his company’s plans to develop a resilient community in Fiji. As we continued the discussion and dived into the specifics, it was clear that he and Chris had done their homework. Fiji seems like a great location for a resilient community for many of the standard reasons (food, energy, water, safety…), although I’ll learn more once I get boots on the ground.
I also like it because It was also one of the few “remote” resilient communities I’ve seen that could double as an annual vacation destination.
Anyway, here’s an interview I did with Mark and Chris so they can explain it in their own words. It’s worth a read.
John: Hi Mark and Chris. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Chris: Hi John!
John: I’ve been reading your blog Capitalist Exploits for a while and it’s a great source of insight into what’s going on in frontier markets. Why the shift to building a resilient community in Fiji? That’s a bit of a departure from what you’ve done in the past.
Chris: John, you are right, we are usually focused on frontier markets since that’s where we find the best opportunities. Frontier markets usually have an economic tailwind pushing them forward at an accelerated pace.
John: Sure, but why Fiji and why a resilient community?
Chris: Well, and this is easier to see from the distance, the developed world is breaking down. It’s going through a social, political and economic breakdown. We see signs of this daily and the situation is being made worse by asinine political “solutions.”
John: OK, I’m with you so far.
Chris: In this deteriorating environment, Mark and I believe that one of the best ways to safeguard personal prosperity, and by this I am not referring to balance sheet wealth, but quality of life and safety, is by becoming self-sufficient. So we began looking for safe places around the world that would not only allow us to become self-sufficient, but where it was easy to become self-sufficient.
John: Got it. I can now see why you focused in on Fiji as a location. Tell me more about it.
Chris: Outside of the main island of Viti Levu, and even more so outside of the capital Suva, the “systems” that we talk about are not functioning in the same way as one would expect in a typical American, European or developed world country.
Rain water collection by individuals is completely normal and common. Wells are prevalent, and Fiji has a TON of fresh water in deep, ancient aquifers. Septic tanks for treatment of waste is the norm not an anomaly.
Growing your own food and trading in the small community markets is how the place functions. It works like this irrespective of outside influence. In fact I know of many people who do not use currency at all.
In this respect being “backward” is a massive advantage. The continuous breakdown in the system that we are seeing in the aforementioned developed world is not felt here. When the water stops running in an US suburb people can cope for maybe, oh, a half day. Turn off American Idol of course and they’re completely screwed.
Chris: Even if I have my own water collection, power and food sources within my suburban development, I’d be an island of prosperity in a sea of failure. That’s not a good spot to be in for a variety of reasons.
That will never happen here in Fiji, because everyone is largely resilient already. The psychology of resiliency in Fiji is a massive plus.
John: Got it. So how is Fiji any different from a remote area anywhere else in the world?
Chris: It’s easy to be resilient here. The climate is fantastic. Put almost anything in the ground and it grows. Mark jokes that its like Jurassic park in how fast things grow here, and he’s quite correct. Also, unlike many of the South Pacific islands there are many natural fresh water sources in Fiji, and then of course it is in the tropics and is afforded abundant rainfall.
The amount of fresh food and fish is unbelievable. What any visitor will immediately notice when travelling around the islands, after getting over how incredibly open, warm and genuinely friendly the people are, is that nobody is starving. Solar works well due to…well, sunshine of course.
We also believe there are lots of options in biomass energy solutions. After all it’s mainly jungle. This is of course something you have far more expertise in than we do, and something we’ll be picking your brain on at the Meet Up in November!
John: That sounds great, I’d be more than happy to share my thinking when I’m there.
Chris: Something else I should mention is the availability of very cheap land on which to build your home. Simply put, the place is under-valued.
Affordable beach front exists, and if you want to go a bit off the coast it gets really cheap. For the really intrepid it’s even possible to just get land given to you. Sure, in that instance it will be leased land and you’ll never own it, but for some that matters not.
John: What about the visa situation and things like residency?
Chris: This is one of the most important factors for us. You know it makes no sense trying to build yourself a bolt hole in a safe and secure place if you can’t actually spend time there.
In Fiji, buying real estate allows you to obtain permanent residency almost immediately, with no minimum price on the property you purchase to qualify. Starting a Fijian company will also qualify you, and that’s pretty easy as well.
Then, once you spend 5 solid years there you can simply apply for a passport, pay a small fee (currently less than $4,000 USD) and get your passport and citizenship.
Even if one doesn’t own real estate or get permanent residency, it is very easy to live there full-time. We have friends who live there on back-to-back 6 month tourist visas and come and go all the time.
John: How about getting in and out of Fiji?
Mark: There are direct flights from Hong Kong, LA, Sydney, Brisbane, and Auckland. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier. The inter-island flights and ferries typically run daily depending on the islands you’re heading to. Almost anyone can get to Fiji as easily as anywhere in South America for example, and in less time than it takes to get to Asia, Australia or New Zealand.
John: I know you are entrepreneurs at heart so tell me what other opportunities are you looking at in Fiji?
Chris: It’s a genetic defect. I blame poor parenting…
Seriously though, this is why we are hosting the Meet Up there. Opportunities exist in agriculture, tourism and high-value products in particular. Things like exotic produce, oils, organics, etc.
Forestry is another one. Mark Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce.com is developing a teak business on the island that we’re also focused on. Teak is a high-value, premium product and Fiji has some other amazing hardwoods as well.
Several billionaires call Fiji their second home, including the founder of Red Bull and some more obscure, reserved types. Anthony Robbins, the world-famous motivational speaker owns a ton of property. The now infamous Mel Gibson owns an island.
Land development is also very attractive, and as mentioned before we have looked at a lot of countries, including Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Malaysia, Thailand, etc… for a place to situate ourselves safely and provide the resiliency that you discuss on this blog John. Developing a resilient community is an opportunity, and one we intend to capitalize on!
Fiji ticks all our boxes for THE absolute best place we’ve found to do this. It’s English-speaking (this is important to some), the prices are down right cheap, the climate is perfect, it’s population base is small and it has abundant natural resources of the kind that really matter.
These will be some of the opportunities we’ll be discussing and showing to the attendees at the Meet Up. It’s going to be a great time, and the fact that you’ll be there as well will really take it over the top (shameless brown-nosing).
We’re super-excited to be showing fellow like-minded investors, entrepreneurs and our friends what we have uncovered.
John: What other things are there to do in Fiji, outside the obvious?
Chris: Are you kidding me? World class diving, one of the worlds most famous…or infamous breaks where surfers come to test their skills. Stunning mountains, rivers, lagoons and unexplored archipelagos of islands.
I was never into sailing but going to Fiji changed that for me. Yachties the world over call Fiji home several months out of the year, during cyclone season. Savusavu bay is in fact considered a safe harbor.
The other thing that I find particularly attractive is that Fiji has no poisonous or dangerous animals. No scary spiders or snakes to take a nip, leaving you 5 minutes to reflect and contemplate life before you shrivel up and die (yeah I’ve lived in Australia previously…lol).
In short, its pretty safe from dangerous people and dangerous animals which is a big plus for me.
John: Thanks for the insight and insight Chris and Mark. Looking forward to seeing you in November.
Hope you found this interview interesting. I did.