Ex-ambassador: Small businesses must go digital to survive

Makeda Antoine-Cambridge, CEO of Genesis International. -
Makeda Antoine-Cambridge, CEO of Genesis International. -

The local firm Genesis International Ltd is reaching out to small businesses to help them use technology to survive the economic downturn, deepened by the effects of the covid19 pandemic.

Genesis CEO Makeda Antoine-Cambridge says the company's Small Business Transformation Programme will pay extra attention to enterprises run by women and young people.

“In the past year, covid19 has disproportionately affected women; many more women have to stay at home with their children and that affects the family at the social and economic levels. In addition, many women, and young people, are choosing entrepreneurship as a means of achieving economic independence. For this reason, GIL's target market is focused on women, youth, technopreneurs and agripreneurs.”

Antoine-Cambridge gave this assurance during last Friday's launch of the initiative which promotes technology-driven entrepreneurship to help micro, small or medium-sized businesses (MSME) access the digital economy for growth. While 95 per cent of companies around the world are MSMEs that provide jobs to about 60 per cent of the world’s employed, these companies must capitalise on the digital economy to ensure their survivability.

In identifying some of the challenges faced by MSMEs, Antoine-Cambridge said covid19 has exacerbated the situation so much so that the World Bank has already projected that at least 50 per cent of small businesses will fail this year.

The former permanent representative and ambassador of TT to the United Nations (Geneva), Austria and Italy, was very optimistic about the opportunities provided by the digital transformation for small economies like TT and small businesses. Her background in information, communications technology and diplomacy includes senior positions in Jamaica (Digicel Group) and United Arab of Emirates (Infobip) where she managed Caribbean and African territories.

“According to UNCTAD data, the digital economy is expected to be worth US$23 trillion by 2025, with a return on investment valued 6.7 times higher than other sectors. Recent data from Statista shows that the Caribbean Business 2 Consumer (B2C) e-commerce market is valued at US$5 billion, growing at approximately 25 per cent annually, which means more and more people are conducting business using digital methods,” Antoine-Cambridge said.

Also addressing the Caribbean and international guests attending the online launch were former minister of labour and small enterprise development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus and WiPay CEO Aldwyn Wayne.

Wayne, whose company WiPay is the Caribbean’s leading online payments platform, said digitalisation and the advent of social media have made it significantly easier for entrepreneurs to start their businesses. “The internet is the great equaliser. The internet allows entrepreneurs to market their product or service to anyone, anywhere in the world,” he added.

The former minister referred to measures outlined in the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery report, that recommended providing financial support to MSMEs. Pointing to the country’s 130 registered credit unions, with total assets of TT$16.8 billion and about 600,000 adult members, Baptiste-Primus applauded the recommendation by the committee to put more funding into their hands as a way of assisting MSMEs.

GIL’s programme will kick off with a business boot camp later in March. In addition to coaching and mentoring, it will offer webinar-based learning for entrepreneurs with business accelerator programs and boot camps, free community business clinics, and funding through the company’s existing Social Enterprise and Empowerment Fund.


"Ex-ambassador: Small businesses must go digital to survive"

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