JIS News

The National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica Limited (Ex-Im) has launched a loan programme to offer financial aid to entrepreneurs in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
The programme, which is two-pronged, will see the Bank partnering with the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) of the University of Technology (UTech) to implement the ICT -Yes initiative, which involves offering short term revolving loans to the centre’s young start up entrepreneurs, while the second component is a direct medium term financing facility mainly for persons engaged in software development training and telecommunications.
Ex-Im Bank has allocated a total of $80 million for the programme, with $20 million going towards the ICT-Yes initiative and $60 million for the medium term financing component.
President of the UTech, Dr. Rae Davis, speaking at the launch today (March 5) at the Ministry of Finance and Planning in Kingston, said that the loan programme would provide welcome relief for the sector to advance research, the development of new technologies and related services.
He hailed the collaboration with the TIC, noting that the provision of short term financing would help to lower the costs associated with the start up of businesses.
Dr. Davis reaffirmed the centre’s commitment to identifying and negotiating access to funding for on and off site entrepreneurs and to administer all the needed administrative and professional processes to ensure that the loan schemes and projects were being carried out on schedule and within the agreed terms. He informed that the University was in advanced negotiations with the Angel Investor Network to obtain additional capital.
Meanwhile, Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell, said the intervention was a timely one as the use of digital technologies offered huge opportunities for the development of new products and services.
He said the investment was made even more significant because of the global shift from economic growth based on the availability of raw material and labour intensive inputs, to one that made use of computer-based technology.
The Minister noted that much more needed to be done to provide young entrepreneurs with the resources to realize their ambitions, as the vast potential of the ICT sector remained untapped. “We believe that this tremendous potential is yet to be fully realized, one of the limiting factors has been access to affordable capital,” he stated.
Pointing to the potential of the sector, Minister Paulwell said that since liberalization, the country has attracted “significant investments in the information and telecommunication sector”.
Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, who launched the programme, said the ICT sector had much to offer in the way of job creation and economic growth. He congratulated Ex-Im Bank on the initiative, noting that the investment indicated the Bank’s interest in building capacity for long-term sustainability. He urged beneficiaries of the loans to make the best of the opportunity.
Chairman of Ex-Im Bank, Dr. Owen Jefferson, said the programme was part of the continued bid to “assist in promoting the growth of the country’s productive sector”. He said the focus on the country’s information communication sector was in recognition of the need for increased productivity and exports to compete effectively in an increasingly globalised marketplace.
Persons eligible for short term loans under the ICT-YES facility are: young start up entrepreneurs with small to medium-sized enterprises, who are ‘incubator tenants’ at the University’s TIC; and owners of start up, small to medium-sized enterprises, who are not TIC members but engaged in similar business operations.
For the short-term loan, first time borrowers will have a limit of $500,000. Repeat borrowers, who have demonstrated satisfactory performance, may be eligible for further loans providing the maximum exposure does not exceed $1 million. For the medium term facility, each individual can access up to $15 million. The loans attract interest rate of 12 percent per annum on the reducing balance.
Application forms for ICT-YES are available from the TIC at UTech’s Old Hope Road campus or the Ex-Im Bank at 48 Duke Street in Kingston, while forms for the medium term programme are available at the Bank only.