The governments of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Organization of Americans States (OAS) for the implementation of a project for the development of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) model in their respective countries.
The OAS said that the program focuses on the transfer of the successful US Small Business Development Center model, which provides a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“This targeted assistance seeks to address some of the systemic issues plaguing Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in the Caribbean region, such as access to finance, development of a strong legislative/policy framework and effectively linking SMEs to international markets,” the OAS said.
At the signing ceremony on Friday, OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Kim Osborne, underscored the value of the program and affirmed that “public policies to assist SME’s must go hand in hand with the planning and execution of programs that improve their productivity, innovation and participation in both the domestic and international markets.”
Minister of Trade, Commerce & Industry, Sports, Culture & National Festivals of Antigua and Barbuda, Chet Greene, expressed his country’s commitment to the implementation of the initiative and the relevance of partnership for economic growth.
“We are glad to be part of this program, and we offer our full commitment and our readiness to be a responsible partner in growing and strengthening our SME’s, and we look forward to the coming weeks, months, years, and to the evaluation that will follow,” he said.
Minister of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, Lindsey Grant, highlighted the impact that SMEs have for economic development.
“The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding today is not simply a signature, or ticking a box to show completion of a task, but, rather, it is the first step in the serious business of not only improving the economies of our countries but also engaging in the most satisfying activity of enhancing the lives of all the people whom we serve,” he said.
Minister of State for Grand Bahama, James Kwasi Malik Thompson, said that his country had previously joined the initiative during the meeting of Ministers of Education in the Bahamas, according to the OAS.
Thompson said there was need to support SME’s in the framework of competitiveness and innovation.
“In order to accelerate the country’s economic growth, steps need to be taken to further develop our environment, which focuses in competitiveness, ease of doing business and microeconomic stability,” he said.
In its second phase, the OAS said the SBDC program seeks to expand the model adaptation to new beneficiary countries within the Caribbean region.
It said the SBDC model leverages the technical, human and financial resources of the public and private sectors and academia to develop an “ecosystem of sorts to nurture the growth of small business enterprises.
“The tripartite partnership guarantees the sustainability of the program, and eliminates inefficiencies and duplication of efforts among agencies,” the OAS said.