The new decade ushers in a new focus by the Caribbean Export Development Agency to leverage the support of the European Union (EU) to bolster private sector growth within the Caribbean.

This year marks the 4th year of implementation of the EU’s 11th European Development Fund (EDF)Regional Private Sector Development Programme, which is focused on market penetration, increased access to finance and providing more targeted approaches to enhancing firm capacity, amongst others.

Since the start of the programme the Agency has supported a cadre of companies across CARIFORUM in areas such as business development, capacity building, export promotion, and export development, and has so far awarded $3.5M (BBD) or €1.5M in grant funds, and is preparing to award even more grants in 2020. Despite these results, there remains a need to revisit the vision for private sector development in the Caribbean given the rapidly changing global trade landscape.

H.E. Ambassador Daniela Tramacere, Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados, Eastern Caribbean, in a recent interview said institutions such as Caribbean Export have been doing a tremendous job to increase Caribbean firms’ export potential and capacities; but there was an urgent need to ensure the sustainability of this effort as capacity development and access to finance remain important challenges. She stressed that there is need for a concerted plan of action among all relevant stakeholders, public and private, to look for synergies and avoid duplications.

To that end, Ambassador Tramacere said: “Considering the fiscal challenges faced by the governments in the Caribbean, the private sector has an important role to play as a driver for economic growth and job creation. Therefore, access to finance is a ‘pre-condition’ for companies seeking to drive economic growth, maintain competitiveness and create jobs.”

She continued, “This is where the EU’s support to capacity building activities targeting Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in particular are important to identifying the right sources of finance.”

In 2018 and 2019 Caribbean Export partnered with the Caribbean Development Bank to support the access to finance pillar of the Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport) programme. This saw participating MSME’s increase their understanding of the requirements of financial institutions and receive ongoing coaching in sourcing finance from both traditional and via alternative sources such as angel investment.

Further, through a programme funded by the World Bank, Caribbean Export has established CBAN – the Caribbean Business Angel Network (formerly known as Regional Angel Investor Network or RAIN) in 2017/2018 to support the development of a regional angel investment eco-system.

“We recognise access to finance is a major challenge for SMEs and we will be announcing the 3rd Call for Proposals in May 2020 when companies will be able to apply for a €10,000 grant through our Direct Assistance Grant Scheme” informed Anthony Bradshaw, Officer in Charge at Caribbean Export.

As the Agency continues to roll out work programme activities whilst implementing the Regional Private Sector Development Programme, expect to see more partnerships like this being leveraged to pool resources and increase the overall support to the private sector in the Caribbean.

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