The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) will be spearheading the implementation of several projects, valued just over US$1 million, which are programmed for rollout during fiscal year 2022/23.
These engagements, which aim to bolster the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, are being financed by the Government of Jamaica and several international development partners.
Details of these initiatives were outlined by Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Harold Davis, during the recent JBDC CEO’s Breakfast, at the AC Hotel by Marriott Kingston.
Among the engagements is an Essential Oils Incubator Project, for which the Government has provided $50 million in investment support.
Mr. Davis said that the initiative, which was launched earlier this year, is intended to reduce the volume of oils imported for use in areas of production, such as agro-processing.
He informed that as much as 90 per cent of the oils utilised locally are imported.
Mr. Davis said that the project presents “exciting export opportunities”, noting that local production is set to commence shortly.
He informed that the venture will entail a client incubator facility to provide support services for businesses.
Meanwhile, the Organization of American States (OAS) has provided US$228,000 to fund the ‘Accelerating MSME Growth through Innovation and Technology Programme’.
This initiative is intended to facilitate digital transformation of micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) operations.
Mr. Davis explained that it will involve the development of client dashboards that allow the JBDC and other partner agencies to monitor the entities’ digital transformation process, in real time.
“So, we will be using technology-driven solutions to make sure that our entrepreneurs get into the digital economy seamlessly. We are [looking to guide] our entrepreneurs along the continuum towards digital transformation,” he pointed out.
The European Union has provided €273,000 to support the JDBC’s ‘Jamaica Harvest’ brand, which is also tailored for MSMEs.
Mr. Davis said ‘JH’ represents a route to market for several MSMEs under a designated brand, via strategic clustering of entities collectively engaged in various engagements.
“It’s an exotic boutique brand that is targeted specifically at the export markets. Participating enterprises would be able to access these markets immediately through the clustering process. Currently, we have about 12 enterprises that [manufacture] products under this brand. These products include a range of flours such as sweet potato, breadfruit and cassava, as well as Scotch bonnet pepper (dried flakes and powder), and chocolate tea,” he informed.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is financing another project that will focus on undertaking the first ever economic impact assessment of the cultural and creative industries (CCIs).
Mr. Davis indicated that JBDC will partner with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) under the US$72,197 initiative.
He pointed out that the collaboration with the Ministry is to ensure proper streamlining of the engagement, while the partnership with STATIN is intended to collate and officially document CCI-specific data.
“Currently, there’s no framework… [within] STATIN for collating information relating to CCIs. If you are looking for CCI-specific information, [this is documented] under ‘Services’ or ‘Tourism’ or ‘Other’,” Mr. Davis pointed out.
Against this background, he said the project’s programmed implementation is an “important move”.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is funding the ‘Formalisation of Operators in the Jamaican Farming and Fisheries Sector’ project at a cost of US$60,000.
Mr. Davis informed that the project will see the operations/engagements of some 100 farmers and fisherfolk islandwide being formalised.
He said that due to formality, farmers and fisherfolk are unable to access certain benefits for their business to grow.
The Deputy CEO indicated that activities to regularise their operations will take a capacity development approach that sees the participants benefiting from business and product development training and enterprise structuring for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.
He noted that beneficiaries, with whom work has started are “very excited” about the undertaking.
Mr. Davis advised that Sagicor Jamaica Limited, along with other government entities, has partnered with the JBDC on the project.
“Our friends from Sagicor have come on board… to offer additional products and services… such as insurance, special financing and pension arrangements for this group. We [are looking to] co-create solutions that are best for our clients,” he added.
Mr. Davis also advised that engagements for Cohort Four of the JBDC’s Accelerator Programme, which was launched recently, are also slated for implementation this year.
This phase, being implemented at a cost of $60 million, aims to provide support for participants, particularly MSMEs, averaging sales growth of 10 per cent or more per annum, early-stage entrepreneurs generating jobs, firms receiving early-stage financing, and entities forging links with strategic business partners, such as angel and institutional investors, and fund managers.
Participants will benefit from a six-module curriculum, which includes training in strategic development, financial management, marketing and sales, operational improvement, digital transformation, and business valuation.
They will also be provided with opportunities for mentorship, networking, increased sales, business growth, and financing.
This phase is being co-financed by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and JBDC.
“We have about 60 persons/entities already registered, and they are excited and rearing to go,” Mr. Davis said.
The Deputy CEO pointed out that while the engagements outlined are not the full slate of activities being spearheaded by the JBDC, “these are the ones that will be started and implemented… this year”.
Mr. Davis noted that despite the negative global impact resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic over the past two years, compounded by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, “business is good”.
He said the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) has, over the period, recorded the highest number of new business registrations, pointing out that “persons are excited about the opportunities that exist, now, in the [entrepreneurship] ecosystem”.
Mr. Davis further pointed out that the rate of innovation globally over the last two years, “has been the highest it has ever been” and, as such, “it [cannot be] business as usual.”
“Your market has changed, your consumers have changed, your routes to market, in many instances, have changed, and your supply chain has changed. We need to understand, as entrepreneurs and persons in the entrepreneurial space, that these changes have to be acknowledged, and your business model has to be tweaked accordingly,” he pointed out.
Consequently, Mr. Davis said, “I think it’s time for us to reimagine business… and while we [do so], we also have to reimagine business support”