Above: St Vincent (CJ Photo)
By Gerard Best
St Vincent and the Grenadines is making strides towards creating a new cadre of local entrepreneurs.
Vincentians with dreams of developing their own businesses can now apply for government grants covering the cost of business incubation and training services.
The grants, which are targeted specifically at businesses offering technology-enabled services, will offer relevant training to be delivered by locally registered institutions.
The initiative is part of a regional programme that aims to foster a different kind of business acumen among Caribbean entrepreneurs. Called CARCIP—the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program—this World Bank-funded project is being executed in parallel across the Eastern Caribbean.
St Lucia and Grenada, which are also participating in the project, are rolling out similar initiatives.
The task of stewarding the CARCIP initiative across these territories has been entrusted to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). Alongside the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network and the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority, the CTU has been working with the participating governments and other key stakeholders to support the large-scale regional project.
At the formal launch of the grants at the Kingstown Methodist Church Hall in St Vincent last month, CARCIP project coordinator Roxanne John gave an overview of the programme and the grants. Her audience included government and private sector representatives, among them Anthony Regisford, Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce, and Hon.Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Consumer Affairs and Information Technology.
Regisford, in his remarks, took the opportunity to highlight the importance of technology to a wide range of local businesses and young innovators. Among the sectors targeted through the CARCIP grants are tourism, information communication technology, agriculture and fisheries, financial sector, construction, manufacturing, health and wellness, and the creative and cultural industries.
Delivering the feature address, Gonsalves encouraged local businesses “to embrace information technology”. Establishing an online presence or branching out into online commerce can help local businesses to discover untapped regional and international growth markets, he said.
After the official launch, participants were trained on how to use the grants manual, the formal document that will guide them through the process of administering the grants.
The next step will be a call for expressions of interest for business incubators.