These were some of the findings at a one day consultation on Tuesday this week, of entrepreneurs from member OECS countries, organized by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, ECCB.
For some of the participants who attended the consultation, there is also a need for a new culture of entrepreneurship, if the required advancement of small, micro and even large businesses is to be attained in an already difficult environment, faced by shrinking markets, increased costs and dwindling sources for financial opportunities to fund existing and start up enterprises.
Though it was accepted by delegates that it is entrepreneurship that powers the modern economy and that it contributes to the overall standard of living and the quality of life of the people here in St. Kitts and Nevis and the OECS, there are too many factors that still delay the type of growth of entrepreneurship that is required and desired in all Caribbean economies.
A safe and predictable business environment was said by delegates to be needed for the possibility of growth; but they also noted that sustainability was important, while a more enabling environment and operational framework, with supporting systems, were key for start up businesses and those that are struggling to ‘stay above the water’.
It would seem said one participant that businesses appear to be in a survival phase most times as they confront the many obstacles that are present. The lack of mentoring, government concessions, and controlled mechanisms were also said to be leading to business failures. It was admitted that some entrepreneurs do not necessarily have the management skills, risk analysis capabilities, marketing competence and financial know-how to effectively operate. Some, it was identified are simply left on their own, lacking the technical skills to avoid failure.
These, it was argued, are the most vulnerable groups that are in need of assistance to achieve success. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park, said one delegate; it requires hard work and dedication.
To help address some of the issues raised at the consultation, the ECCB provided a synopsis of new plans to establish an Eastern Caribbean Enterprise Fund, to not only help finance workable business ideas, but also provide technical support that should help them to obtain the right start-up experience and travel successfully through the early and most challenging stages.
Approximately 200 delegates from Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Kitts and Nevis, participated in the exercise, which came as part of the ECCB’s outreach initiative to play its role in the development of OECS businesses.
While overseas delegates participated via teleconferencing, those from St. Kitts and Nevis met at the Maltin Moving Conference Centre, at the ECCB, linking up with their Caribbean counterparts, using the facilities of modern technology.