The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) on Wednesday signed memorandum of understanding with the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) to launch the pilot of the Growth & Expansion of MSMES through Innovation (GEMINI), which will succeed the Voucher for Technical Assistance (VTA) in providing capacity development to businesses at various stages of the growth spectrum.
The DBJ has earmarked $100 million for the pilot, which will run until the end of the fiscal year 2023/24.
“The GEMINI grant programme is designed to support the growth and development of MSMEs enabling them to improve their operational efficiency, enhance their market competitiveness, access to finance and ultimately increase their chances at success,” general manager of project management at the DBJ, Hugh Grant, explained.
While the DBJ will provide up to 80 per cent of funding towards business development services, or up to $800,000, per business, the JBDC will assess MSMEs and create a work plan to support their transition through the various stages of the business continuum. JBDC’s four business development programmes that address each business cycle are the nursery, incubator, accelerator and scale-up community.
“MSMEs will benefit from closer hand holding and training, in addition to specific needed grant support; for example, business plans, financial statements and/or digital services,” Grant outlined further.
According to DBJ Managing Director Anthony Shaw, the new programme will be more relevant to the needs of MSMEs.
“Since COVID-19 hit Jamaica in 2020, the demand for this support has exploded — largely because the pandemic exposed to us [the need for] digital readiness as a nation,” he said.
“After close to 10 years of providing sterling service to the MSME community, the DBJ’s premier capacity-building programme, the Voucher for Technical Assistance, came to an end last year chiefly because we needed to restructure it and make it more relevant to the needs of beneficiaries,” he continued.
Over the last five years, the DBJ supported over 3,300 MSMEs with technical assistants and grants, amounting to $1.6 billion, to help entrepreneurs with training, business plan development, understanding and generating financial statements, marketing and promotions plans, and mentorship and coaching. During that time, the VTA accounted for 2,480 grants to businesses valuing around $500 million.
Speaking on behalf of the JBDC, Deputy CEO Harold Davis hailed the GEMINI programme as a partnership of like minds with both organisations “coming together to improve the ecosystem of the MSME sector”.
“We’re thrilled that the programme envisages to use our SBDCs to deliver their services,” he stated, adding that the role of the SBDC network aligns with the GEMINI programme in several ways.
Forged out of partnerships with tertiary institutions across Jamaica, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and Sagicor Bank, the SBDC network allows the JBDC ensure quality assurance in its business development services as well as measure national impact of the services offered to MSMES.
Through the SBDCs, the JBDC will assess the gaps of each business applying to the GEMINI programme and determine the level of training, consultation, and business advisory needs of the MSME, cost the work plan, and request approval from the DBJ.
“Wherever along that business development continuum that we find your entrepreneurial journey, that’s where the JBDC comes in,” Davis emphasised
“We have developed a programmatic structure that allows us to apply the appropriate support to the stage of business you’re at,” he added.