‘ Trade really does work best when it works for everyone’ – Mary Ng
By Lincoln DePradine
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has caused disruptions across in various sectors across the world, but at least one Caribbean nation is reporting that COVID-19 has not negatively impacted remittances from Canada and other countries.
“Despite COVID-19, net remittance inflows to Jamaica for July 2020 increased compared with July 2019,’’ Audley Shaw, Jamaica’s minister of industry, investment and commerce, said in live video address to a Toronto business conference.
Quoting data from the Bank of Jamaica, Shaw said there was a remittance transfer increase this past July of 43.8 per cent or US$83.7 million.
“Total remittance inflows for July 2020 stood at US$274.7 million,’’ said the Jamaican minister. “The USA remained the largest source market of remittances to Jamaica, contributing 67 per cent . Canada contributed 11.1 per cent; followed by the United Kingdom with 10.8 per cent and the Cayman 7.3 per cent. This Diaspora is not a segment that we can afford to ignore.’’
Shaw was one of several local and international speakers, drawn from the private and public sectors, governments and non-governmental organizations that addressed BIDEM – the “bridged, high impact Diaspora entrepreneurs to efficient diasporic markets’’ conference and trade show – that was organized by the Community of Practice for Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Magate Wildhorse Ltd.
The range of topics discussed at the three-day event included healthcare information technology led by Ann Ingraham, who has a PhD. in in business administration with specialization in the management of engineering and technology; and a session, led by Dr Mariama Williams on women, trade, the economy and sustainable development.
Williams is coordinator of an inter-governmental think-tank of developing countries based in Switzerland, as well as a member of the Caribbean Feminist Action Network and a director at the Institute of Law and Economics in Jamaica.
Minister Shaw congratulated the conference organizers, saying “the objective of catalyzing support for Caribbean and African Diasporic groups, while providing the space for discussions of the issues facing these groups, is a timely and essential one, especially in the face of unprecedented challenges globally, during the current pandemic’’.
He reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting Jamaican overseas communities, pointing to the recent drafting of a National Diaspora Policy (NDP) that’s to be presented to parliament.
“The NDP provides an institutional framework and a road map for cohesive engagement and partnership with the Jamaican Diaspora,’’ said Shaw. “The policy is aligned to Jamaica’s Vision 2030 and envisions that by 2030, there will be transformative empowerment of the Jamaican Diaspora to realize their fullest potential in their countries of residence, while optimizing their contributions to national development.’’
It’s estimated that Jamaica has about 429 Diaspora organizations in Canada, the United Kingston and the United States. In 2017, the value of Diaspora investment in Jamaica was put at US$1.2 billion.
For nationals in the Diaspora, said Shaw, opportunities exist in Jamaica for investment in areas such as energy, agro-business and agro-processing, and health and wellness tourism.
“As outlined in the National Diaspora Policy, we intend to strengthen the systems and mechanisms for the establishment and extension of investment and support for businesses operating in the Diaspora, as we move to create a stronger and more empowered Diaspora and a more prosperous Jamaica,’’ he said.
Among other government ministers who addresed the conference and trade show of entrepreneurs was Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business, export promotion and international trade.
Women, racialized entrepreneurs and Canadian newcomers, normally underrepresented in global trade, are “disproportionately affected’’ by COVID-19, Ng said.
“A key part of the work that lies ahead, as the world rebuilds from this pandemic, is empowering of our entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow, to scale up, and to access opportunities in the international market,’’ she said.
“I know that the resourcefulness and the leadership of Canada’s Caribbean Diaspora and entrepreneur community are going to continue to play an invaluable role in helping us weather this storm. So, it’s my role to continue to help those companies navigate through this crisis and to position them for success beyond COVID-19.’’
Canada’s global trade, including with the Caribbean, supported more 3.4 million jobs and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the country’s economy, before COVID-19.
“Trade is key to ensuring that our people and our businesses rebuild and recover even more quickly from this crisis,’’ Ng said. “We know that trade really does work best when it works for everyone, and we are committed to mobilizing and supporting all of our entrepreneurs here in Canada.’’
Founder and CEO of the US-based Authentic Caribbean Foundation Inc., Andrew Sharpe, who offered tips on doing business with the American government, welcomed the pledge by Ng and the Canadian administration to collaborate on empowering with Black and Caribbean entrepreneurs, and other racialized small business owners.
Sharpe encouraged the entrepreneurs to pursue the collaborative opportunities and initiatives with the government.