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High prospects for entrepreneurship in region

Marcia Brandon

High prospects for entrepreneurship in region

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ENTREPRENEURS ARE THE engine of social and economic sustainable development. Entrepreneurs and enterprises are drivers of innovation, productivity, growth and new jobs. While this has not been entirely true in the Caribbean with its high reliance on Government jobs and Government-driven economic solutions, all that is quickly changing. With high unemployment among youth and adults, crumbling infrastructure and grossly underfunded complementary social organizations, in every country, governments and others sectors of society are grappling with disengaged and disgruntled citizens, rising crime and apathy.

Despite these challenges, the data from the recently released Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) is reporting that the Caribbean has high prospects for entrepreneurship. The findings also reveal that the world is at 52 per cent of its entrepreneurial capacity.

The GEI, which measures the entrepreneurial ecosystems in 130 countries, uses a methodology which collects data on the entrepreneurial attitudes, abilities and aspirations of the local population and then weights these against the prevailing social and economic infrastructure. The intention is to indicate countries’ overall entrepreneurship attitude and potential. In Latin America and the Caribbean, with a very young population, improving governance and overall growing economies, there is a rapidly growing interest in entrepreneurship.    

Barbados is ranked 59 of the 130 countries and seven of the 23 countries surveyed in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).  It ranks first in the Caribbean, based on the GEI scores among the Caribbean countries surveyed. These countries were Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. Its overall GEI score is 37.1.  Barbados’ entrepreneurial attitudes scored 48.9; entrepreneurial abilities scored 37.9 and entrepreneurial aspirations scored 24.4.

The Dominican Republic’s is ranked 77 of 130 countries. Its entrepreneurial attitudes ranking is 40.3; entrepreneurial abilities is 26.6; entrepreneurial aspirations is 24.9 and overall score is 30 and 11 within LAC but second within Caribbean countries. Guyana is ranked 127 of 130. Its regional ranking is 23 of 23 and its overall GEI score is 16.2. It has entrepreneurial attitudes of 18.8; entrepreneurial abilities of 16.2 and entrepreneurial aspirations of 13.5.

Jamaica is ranked 97 of 130 and 18 of LAC. Its overall GEI score is 27.2. Entrepreneurial attitudes ranked at 36.2; entrepreneurial abilities at 28.5 and entrepreneurial aspirations at16.9.  Suriname has a GEI score of 20.7 and is ranked 121 of 130 and 21 of 23 in LAC.  Suriname’s entrepreneurial attitude stands at 25.0; entrepreneurial abilities at 24.9 and entrepreneurial aspirations at 12.1.

The Caribbean’s entrepreneurial ecosystems have ranked below average in the entrepreneurial acumen of its people and the overall ecosystem which can help to nurture the culture of entrepreneurship. While it has below average ratings, the potential for entrepreneurial growth, by Caribbean people, is very high.  

In all countries in the region, government policies are incorporating entrepreneurship development. Because this sector is very new in the Caribbean, and newer in some countries than in others, the focus is still on unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit, getting people to understand the importance of entrepreneurship to themselves and the economy.

The Caribbean is trying to balance supporting high-growth businesses alongside balancing the support of start-ups and the entire life cycle of a new venture. GEI 2014 emphasizes the importance of designing policies that effectively enhance entrepreneurship ecosystems. For this to happen, GEI notes that policy-makers need to take an ecosystems approach, seeking to understand entrepreneurship from a systems perspective, rather than from an individual approach.

There are tremendous differences between countries, economies and their systems. The Caribbean is currently at a place where many citizens are still being sensitized to the fact that they can start their own businesses, that there is help to be found, and being shown how they can do it.  Because entrepreneurship is still so new in the Caribbean, while it is clear that not all entrepreneurs are the same, in these small economies, with high unemployment, the experiments and explorations are still being undertaken to inspire people to pursue entrepreneurship. 

There is quite a balancing act underway in the Caribbean, dissecting high growth entrepreneurs, those who will generate sustainable jobs and contribute to the country’s economic growth and those who will spur individual and community development.  

Governments and other stakeholders have quite a job to do.  One thing is certain, due to limited resources, financial, human, infrastructural and otherwise, no longer can government departments develop policies in silos.  There is an urgent need for all the relevant policy developing ministries, stakeholders and sectors to work together to generate policies which will effectively facilitate entrepreneurship development in the Caribbean.  

The GEI approach concentrates on Risk Acceptance; Internationalization; Process Innovation; Technology; Absorption; High Growth; Human Capital; Risk Capital; Opportunity Perception; Startup Skills; Cultural Support; Opportunity Startup; Competition; Product Innovation and Networking. 

These pillars, as they are referred to, all need to be working together to create a highly effective national entrepreneurial eco-system. Entrepreneurship is complex and multi-sectoral, hence for policies to be effective they must address, in a coordinated way, all of the above pillars.  If they are not working together GEI sees this as creating bottlenecks which retard entrepreneurial progress and signal deficiencies in a country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Marcia Brandon is a regional entrepreneurship and NGO specialist. For more information visit www.