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Acknowledge the co-evolution of the Jamaica Employers Federation and the Unions into complementary production machinery. This is a welcome development from the past. The membership today is decidedly different from that of the past and reflects not only the changes of background but also the arrival of the new entrepreneurs.
There has been progressive development in the JEF’s stance, in its outlook and the skills which are now combined.
During my school days, the brightest students had their sights on professions, such as medicine, law, religion, teaching, engineering and the civil service.
The few students that saw business as a career were mostly those from rich families with long successful enterprises. School was simply a maturing phase before entering the family business.
Today, many of our top students at the Tertiary Level are determined to enter the business field, as more economic possibilities become available on the island. They recognise that wealth and prosperity require bright minds and knowledge is the key to their ultimate success.
Nevertheless, the school curricula, except for a few business courses, remain largely the same with the emphasis on education and training to fill jobs in existing businesses or new ones expected from the ruling elite.
Encouraging entrepreneurship and fostering the innovative spirit and explaining all the elements of creating new self-employed businesses, were at best tackled on the margins of curricula.
This is true not only of high schools, but tertiary institutions.
Despite this, a number of bright young Jamaicans have given expression to their entrepreneurial talents and started new technologically led enterprises.
This approach is so new to us that there is insufficient data on the numbers and ranges of entrepreneurial business in Jamaica, and indeed the number of jobs that have been created and their current contributions to the economy.
The logical question now is what more can our educational system do to ensure that all those with the aptitude enter this field of endeavour and what other forms of support is required from the public and private sectors to ensure more successes and make novel ideas into productive realities.
Our formal launch today indicates that this group of young innovative-minded Jamaicans recognise their value to our future. Essentially, they have come of age – and congratulations to them.
But how many of them know of the Technology Investment Fund (TIF) and the Research Tax Exemption Scheme at the NCST. Perhaps more extensive networks are required.
How many S&T institutions are geared to offer this group information and technical assistance and transfer of technology.
It is commendable to be bright and entrepreneurial, but to make this profitable and sustainable in a highly competitive regional and global environment; continuous improvement is necessary in all such enterprises. This should rest on the best evidence-based knowledge available. Our S&T infrastructure should become alive to this responsibility.
RELEVANCE OF THIS ASSOCIATION TO JAMAICA’S INVESTMENT CLIMATE
It is important that entrepreneurs have the appropriate knowledge and skills to run their businesses. Provision of mentoring is also considered a useful tool to support entrepreneurs especially during the first year of developing their businesses. The YEA will become critical in creating this supportive environment – one in which young entrepreneurs can inspire one another in growth, balance and success.
JEF’s Young Entrepreneur’s Association, is the first of its kind in the Caribbean. In keeping with its mission, the Association will lead the development of successful young businesses through the delivery of dynamic, high value, event driven programming that communicates the fundamental skills of business management.
The Association will also promote a cadre of young entrepreneurs who will mentor each other in business and in life.
There are over 70 young business owners who have indicated a serious interest in being part of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. This should have a ripple effect in providing opportunities to network with likeminded young business owners across the region and the globe.
We welcome this association as a hub around which young entrepreneurs can negotiate and protect their interests – this should translate into a more robust economy, and a higher rate of employment.
NIP:
Government’s role is to provide the type of environment in which young businesses and young business owners can realize their fullest potential. This is the crux of the National Industrial Policy.One of the broad aims of the National Industrial Policy is to promote transformation of the structure of the Jamaica economy by the promotion of new activities in targeted areas.
In this regard the policy is pursuing a diversified pattern of growth, not confined to one big engine, but on a diversified portfolio of different growth opportunities. Entrepreneurship is being encouraged as one of these portfolio growth opportunities. Some people argue that more emphasis should be placed on this (as opposed to job creation) as a critical antidote to unemployment. The Government endeavours to promote both.
We are seeking to foster an environment conducive to creation of opportunities for self-employment –
By advocating for the strengthening of loan programmes to facilitate access to youth friendly credit;
By fostering training in the areas of entrepreneurship and enterprise development for youth (in and out of school), and;
By promoting self-employment as a viable alternative to traditional employment.
By the Provision of access to grant funding/loans/grants can nurture an entrepreneurial environment
Some examples
The Jamaica Youth Business Trust (JYBT), a youth entrepreneurship development organization, was launched in June 2000 to help young people 18-20 to start and build sustainable businesses using the tried and proven youth entrepreneurship three pronged methodology of start-up capital, business mentoring, with consistent and continuous ongoing business support.
The Self-Start Fund provides grants/loans to applicants who are involved in small and micro-enterprises. Loans are made for the purpose of acquiring tools; implements of trade, equipment and raw materials for start up of the business.
To date over 1, 283 persons have benefited to the tune of $174M. Loans have been given for the services sector ($136M), agriculture ($14M) and craft ($23M). Of the number benefited, 583 were males and 700 females.
NDFJ has provided loans ranging from $20,000 to $3M to small-scale business operators who are viable and operating for six months or more.
Micro Investment Development Agency Limited provides loans, technical assistance and training to the micro-business sector through the provision of wholesale lending agencies. These agencies include Community Development Fund and are easily accessible – since one is located in each parish.
Other private entities such as COK, Development Options, Jamaica National Small Business Loans Ltd., Micro Enterprise Financing Limited, and commercial banks, provide similar benefits.
What else can be done
We need to position and promote appropriate incentives for entrepreneurship
A key component of the YEA is corporate social responsibility – Giving back to the community and subsequently to the country. Its ability to do that is directly linked to its ability to remain viable and competitive – hence the need for incentives.
We need to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and we need to start by introducing the spirit of entrepreneurship at the primary level of education.
Education and training must develop creativity, flexibility and imagination in students of all disciplines as these are crucial to developing entrepreneurs; at the primary level there should be familiarization of enterprise training in the teaching of non-business disciplines, such as the arts, sciences and trades.
Our curriculum should facilitate exposure of students to the world of business, through apprenticeship systems, work experience and closer collaboration with business partners in delivering special lectures and providing internships in technical disciplines at the tertiary levels.
Entrepreneurial skills are valuable life skills that are beneficial even when someone decides upon another career. Entrepreneurship education should be a part of the school curricula, so that young people can get a chance to learn about entrepreneurship, acquire entrepreneurial and business skills and consider whether it would be an interesting career option for them.
Entrepreneurship is almost always arrogated to the formal sector and the well schooled. But, in reality, in all developing countries a vast reservoir of entrepreneurs exist in the informal sector. Here, much help is needed. To overlook this group is to neglect a great vehicle for our development.National Insurance Investment in the Micro Enterprise Sector
Over the past several years, the National Insurance Fund (NIF) has achieved phenomenal growth in its Net Assets. In December 1995, the Net Assets of the Fund amounted to J$4.07 Billion. By 30th December 2005, this amount has increased to over J$42 Billion.
As part of its mandate, the NIF is actively involved in areas to promote economic growth and job creation. At present, the Fund is involved in major sectors of the economy, including: Banking, Insurance, Manufacturing, Trading and Communication Services.
The NIF has identified the micro enterprise sector as one of the areas that can generate significant economic growth and employment opportunities.
I wish to announce that, at its meeting today, the Board of the NIF decided to invest in this sector over the next three years, the sum of J$1 Billion. Of this amount, J$650 Million will be disbursed during this calendar year.
All viable micro economic projects will be considered for financing. The NIF will collaborate with existing small enterprise funding institutions, such as the National Development Foundation of Jamaica (NDFJ) and City of Kingston (COK) Cooperative Credit Union and Micro Investment Development Agency (MIDA) for the disbursement of funds at a most reasonable interest rate and the management of projects.
It is projected that over 3,000 individual projects will be financed, and on terms which will facilitate and encourage entrepreneurship, business development and employment opportunities.
This should provide a major financial kick-start for new entrepreneurs.
Conclusion
“National development can no longer be subordinated to narrow partisan interests” (P: 1992).
There is a compelling need for increased cooperation between all sectors – the workers, the private sector, the trade unions, the citizenry at large, the media and the government. This cooperative approach is the guiding light of the National Industrial Policy.
Entrepreneurship has to be one of the primary means of reducing the high rate of unemployment among Jamaican Youth, thus fostering economic/national development.
The Investment climate in Jamaica is ripe: The government’s macro-economic policies and instruments have taken root and have provided the environment conducive to nurturing both local and foreign investments/ businesses.
So we are not just talking about Brand Jamaica, Destination Jamaica, we now have to nurture Investment Jamaica – premier destination for investment in the Caribbean.
Welcome Young Entrepreneurs Network and Young Entrepreneurs Association as critical mechanisms that can allow further expansion of private/public partnership initiatives in nurturing this investment climate and thereby redound to the development of our nation.