The Competitiveness Company today (December 22), signed a US$150,000 agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to support and improve the competitiveness and profitability of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
This initiative, which is being financed through the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), will seek to accomplish this objective through the effective management and promotion of the intellectual property of MSMEs, by collaborating on branding, and developing standards and certifying products under trade marks.
The MSMEs will also be sensitised about the requirements and standards for accessing foreign markets, and receive assistance with the development of promotional materials.
Speaking at the signing, which took place at the headquarters of the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA), on Winchester Road, Head of the Competitiveness Company, Dr. Beverly Morgan, stressed the importance of the project, given the fraudulent use of brand Jamaica in the sale and promotion of various products made in other countries.
Dr. Morgan explained that the 50 companies, which the initiative plans to begin with, are in the areas of fine apparel, fresh produce, boutique agri-business, wearable arts, and a generic mark called Jamaica’s Finest. “We have been approached by certain tourism interests, so it is highly likely that the non-traditional small operators, will also participate and benefit,” she added.
She noted that regulatory systems will be put in place to ensure quality. This will see the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and the Scientific Research Council (SRC) ensuring that participating firms meet certain international standards.
“Because we want to be able to say that these are branded Jamaican products (and) that the consumers overseas can be certain that they are also adhering to the best practices, in terms of food handling and processes…there is a whole bundle of attributes that go along with the marks,” Dr. Morgan said. Industry management teams will also be established to monitor the process.
Head of the Competitiveness Company, Dr. Beverly Morgan ( 2nd left), exchanges documents with Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Mr. Gerard Johnson, while President of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), Mr. Vitus Evans (right) and former President of the JEA, Dr. Andre Gordon observe. Occasion was the signing of an agreement between the IDB/Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and the Competitiveness Company to implement intellectual property and firm level initiatives to improve the competitiveness of Jamaica micro, small and medium size enterprises. The signing took place at the Jamaica Exporters’ Association’s Winchester Road offices, today (December 22).
Dr. Morgan pointed out that the attendant costs for these marks will be developed in order to ensure sustainability. “They will have to pay a reasonable sum of money in order to receive this support and the licensing, which will allow us to continue to do the work, and there are benefits. It’s not just that they are going to get the use of the marks, there is going to be market penetration initiatives,” she said.
In addition, she disclosed that branding support and protection will be provided, as attorneys will be contracted to stop the sale of goods being purported on the international market as Jamaican products. “That’s one of the missing things now,” she said.
Meanwhile, President of the JEA, Mr. Vitus Evans, said the branding initiative fits perfectly into the JEA’s overall strategy for expanding the MSME sector and by extension, the export sector. He noted that the JEA continues to implement programmes, which are aimed at expanding Brand Jamaica, such as the Protection of the Intellectual Property of Jamaican Goods and Services, National Export Strategy, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and the Private Sector Development Programme.
In his remarks, Country Representative for the IDB, Mr. Gerard Johnson, described the project as a “wise and far-reaching” vision. “All the effort put in by companies to develop a product, whether it’s food, or music that is Jamaican, can be lost without this protection. So this is a necessary thing. We are not fooling ourselves into thinking that this is the solution for the small and medium sector in Jamaica, but it is the solution for a core group,” he said.
The initiative is being implemented in partnership with critical agencies, such as the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), the SRC, and Jamaica Trade and Invest. The project will be rolled out in early 2010, starting with meetings with individuals and firms to support their integration into the programme, following which there will be an accreditation and authorization process, to develop on the marks which will be launched in many of the international markets where the products and services are sold.
The Competitiveness Company falls under the JEA, and was born out of the two-year Jamaica Cluster Competitiveness Project (JCCP). This involved some 300 companies which were signed on to the JCCP, which set out to leverage Jamaica’s world-famous brands and culture, making local firms more internationally competitive and fostering economic growth.
The Project’s targets were: national competitiveness culture, to facilitate the development of a shared competitiveness vision and strategy at the cluster and national level; strengthening competitiveness clusters, which required working with three or more clusters to facilitate networking and to enhance competitiveness at the intra and inter firm levels; improving service provision, which required the strengthening of local capacity to continue this analytical and technical support; improving the wider environment for business; and creating an appropriate forum for stakeholder dialogue.