Valerie Viera, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation.
THE ORGANIZATION of American States (OAS), through its Development Cooperation Fund (DCF), has approved a grant of US$100,000 to support the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) with its project to accelerate the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Jamaica through innovation and technology. This project will be implemented during the OAS/DCF’s 2021-2024 project cycle under the theme ‘Retooling MSMEs through innovation and technology’.
The JBDC’s overall aim with this project is to improve access and dissemination of technological and non-technological tools and resources for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to ultimately support the reactivation of the economy.
More specifically, it seeks to improve the competitiveness and market reach of at least 100 MSMEs, boost their productivity, and enhance their resilience through the adoption of technological and non-technological tools.
According to Valerie Viera, chief executive officer of the JBDC, “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients primarily accessed our services through face-to-face sessions. The physical-distancing restrictions provided an opportunity for JBDC to test the concept of a knowledge bank/virtual campus, through which we deliver a suite of business development courses, counselling, handholding and technical support through our online client monitoring platforms, virtual webinars, workshops, expos and conferences.”
Viera noted that the virtual engagement resulted in a significant increase in the number of entrepreneurs who accessed training and business counselling. There was a 32 per cent increase in knowledge-sharing sessions delivered, compared to the previous year, and a significant increase of 457 per cent in the number of attendees participating in the knowledge-sharing sessions. Likewise, the number of clients from counselling and consultation grew by 65 per cent (10,208 clients), while 7,912 consultation hours were had with clients, representing a 20 per cent increase in this activity.
JBDC, through a public-private partnership with local and international technologists, will develop a digital business service platform. The platform, with artificial intelligence at its core will, among other things, provide digital solutions to MSMEs based on their business and growth model. It will also improve their revenue, provide customer relationship management, back-office support and provide a digital dashboard for entrepreneurs to visualise business health at a glance and generate reports related to sales, operations, inventory, financial statements and cash flow management.
Viera pointed out that access to financing has been a major constraint to expanding the MSME sector, as credit providers have a preference for traditional collateral-based lending. “The development and pilot of the digital business service platform will be the first step in creating a credible and secure system which will be used as the basis to advocate for revenue-based financing as an option for MSMEs.
“Revenue-based financing raises capital from an investment source, which in turn receives a portion of the company’s on-going gross revenues in exchange for their investment,” she added.
Viera says she is elated that the OAS has agreed to partner with the JBDC on this significant initiative, noting that it is in alignment with the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force for Jamaica, which has recommended that the digital transition of the economy should be accelerated to ensure economy recovery is robust and more resilient.
The DCF of the OAS is supported by the annual voluntary contributions of OAS member states and is geared towards addressing their most urgent development needs, particularly among those with smaller and more vulnerable economies. In its programming, the fund emphasises institutional and human resource capacity building as the basis for sustainable development.
Since 1997, the OAS/DCF, formerly FEMCIDI, has provided over U$100 million to support OAS member states in their efforts to reduce poverty and inequality, by providing grants for more than 1,100 projects in areas ranging from education, entrepreneurship, community development, small and medium enterprises, renewable energy resources, and science and technology, among others. The OAS/DCF has offered over US$3.6 million in grants to Jamaica since 1997.
The OAS/DCF invites national, regional, and international actors from both the private and public sectors to join the continued effort by combining resources to achieve more impactful results. Interested persons or organisations may contact the OAS country representative in the Office of the OAS General Secretariat in Jamaica at 2-4 Haining Road, Kingston 5, or call 876-906-0146, 876-906-4054 or 876-906-7759.
Source: Jamaica Gleaner
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