Vice President of Marketing at Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Gabriel Heron.
Photo: Contributed

Jamaica has been making efforts to enhance its foreign trade and investment opportunities under the Economic Diplomacy Programme (EDP).

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in January between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFAFT) and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) to help increase the Government’s trade and investment promotion efforts, through the Programme.

The EDP includes marketing and promotional activities undertaken by JAMPRO and MFAFT’s diplomatic missions and consular posts (DMCPs) to unearth business opportunities that will generate foreign direct investments and drive exports from Jamaica.

It also aims to enhance Jamaica’s presence internationally.

Speaking on the JIS Television ‘Get the Facts’ programme, Vice President of Marketing at JAMPRO, Gabriel Heron, says the partnership between the Ministry and JAMPRO really started in June 2020.

“The Economic Diplomacy Programme is really an [initiative] to drive economic development in Jamaica, through the utilisation of the diplomatic missions and consular posts. So, we are talking about embassies, ambassadors, honorary consuls, and staff members across the globe that work from within the Jamaican diplomatic space,” Mr. Heron notes.

“So, we have discussions with honorary consuls and ambassadors and they would in turn represent JAMPRO’s or Jamaica’s business interests as it relates to investments and trade,” he adds.

According to a release from the Ministry, more than 85 DMCPs across Asia, Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Central and South America have been engaged through webinars, sector presentations and meetings during the EDP’s first phase in 2020.

It further notes that new investment and export prospects have been explored in sectors like tourism, logistics, energy and infrastructure, and agribusiness.

The Ministry says other areas of focus will include the manufacturing and outsourcing industries.

Under the EDP is the Honorary Investment Advisor (HIA) initiative, where an advisor is tasked with increasing awareness of Jamaican opportunities by supporting business matchmaking activities, promoting investment and trade opportunities, and cultivating strong business relationships.

“Where the honorary investment advisor programme comes in is that they are now more aligned with business interests, business networking and opening those doors,” Mr. Heron says.

“The difference is about diplomatic status – the honorary consul has diplomatic status and an investment advisor is really a business moniker… they are representing the country or facilitating the business interests of the country. It gives them some status, as well, as it also enables them to open doors on our behalf. So, whereas we can’t necessarily assign diplomatic status to the honorary investment advisor, it still enables them to represent us in terms of business engagement,” he further explains.

Mr. Heron notes that because JAMPRO’s mandate is to really drive investment projects into the country, the HIA initiative requires the individual to be able to speak to executives, to be able to open the doors, and “facilitate those kinds of business interests and investments that we may particularly be interested in”.

“There has to be some amount of connection with Jamaica, there has to be some allegiance, you really want to help and you really want to support. There are a lot of Jamaicans who are interested,” he says.

“The honorary investment advisory programme, we are driving it now… [and] it has been established for a while now. But because we have recently put a lot of energy behind the economic diplomacy programme, it now follows through that the honorary investment advisory programme is going to get that extra push,” Mr. Heron adds.

In February, JAMPRO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade officially selected Rodney Reid as an honorary investment advisor to promote Jamaican investment and trade opportunities in Japan.

Regarding any successes under the Programme, the Vice President notes that when it comes to investment, the time frame for it to come to fruition depends on the project.

“So, for argument sake, say it’s an export sale, somebody is looking to purchase a container of yam. That means we have a three-month time frame. If it’s a hotel investment, you are looking at a three or four-year time frame. With the programme being revamped and started in June last year, it is a little bit early. It is about building those business relationships, as you know it takes time,” Mr. Heron says.

Meanwhile, Mr. Heron points out that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, JAMPRO has had to pivot.

“So, what we have had to do from a JAMPRO perspective is [find out] where the key resilient sectors [are] and focus on those in the interim and wait for the others which may have been significantly impacted, for example tourism and travel. But we support it as best as possible, but we pivot a bit towards outsourcing, which has seen a ramping up, because there is more need now to outsource,” he argues.

“Outsourcing is one of the major sectors. Agri business is a major sector, and energy is also a major activity as it relates to Jamaica going 50 per cent renewables by 2030. So those are some of the main areas of focus that we are looking at,” Mr. Heron says.

He also points out that one of the sectors that have been predicted to be very resilient during this period is technology.

“One of the things that is critical to Jamaica and JAMPRO now is the outsourcing sector, what we now call the global services sector (GSS), and as we transition from regular business process outsourcing, we also are expanding now to knowledge process outsourcing, information technology outsourcing and leveraging technology more,” Mr. Heron says.

“Technology is where the resilience will occur. There is significant growth within the technology space and in healthcare, but Jamaica has a strong presence with the GSS, where we can leverage the technology in a global space,” he adds.

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