Thu | Jun 20, 2024

Many opportunities in Ja, diaspora markets, say business leaders

Published:Tuesday | June 11, 2024 | 12:09 AM
Shane Angus of JAMPRO.
Shane Angus of JAMPRO.
Gillian Hyde of JN Bank.
Gillian Hyde of JN Bank.
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Business leaders are calling for more discourse and activities that will help Jamaican entrepreneurs, locally and overseas, to take advantage of the myriad investment opportunities available in Jamaica and its diaspora markets.

Speaking during JN Group’s Diaspora Dialogue Webinar recently, Shane Angus, the interim vice-president for exports at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), based in New York, said Jamaica’s location, in relation to major markets, and the influence of its diaspora community, make the country and its associated brands ideal for trade and investment.

“A lot of persons want Jamaican food, but we always struggle to supply persons with the required quantities that are needed, and that is creating a lot of opportunities for investors,” he said. “Cosmetics is also something we see growing … people are now demanding Jamaican castor [oil], and we know a lot of people in the diaspora have lands [in Jamaica] they’re not using, and we can look at utilising those lands to plant more castor trees, and also more ackee trees, more breadfruit trees to see how best we can meet those demands,” he said.

Angus said there are other opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs to pursue in sectors such as tourism.

“One of the new trends we are seeing is that most persons are looking at boutique resorts. We do have a lot of large all-inclusive resorts, but outside of that, a lot of persons want to have that boutique experience. So we need to look at how we can develop 10- to 20-room villas where families and companies can host retreats and where persons can come for medical recovery and things like that,” he reasoned.

MORE EDUCATION TO BENEFIT FROM INVESTMENT

Michelle Tulloch-Neil, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council representative for the Northeast USA, who was among the panellists, noted that there is heavy interest in Jamaica from investors in diaspora markets. She said, however, that more education is needed to help people take advantage of the investment opportunities and professional services available.

“Jamaica is ripe for investments, but what I would love is for us to have more forums where we can educate people on how exactly to invest in Jamaica. We are good with real estate; we have the rental properties. Now we want to get more involved in the business itself. We want to get Jamaica as the ‘hottest’ space. We are close to everywhere, but we just need to know how to get it done,” she said. “People are interested in agriculture, technology, community tourism, [and we want to know], how do we get into the big things?”

However, Angus noted that many entrepreneurs in the diaspora who engage JAMPRO to invest locally often find themselves cash-strapped and struggle to access loans from financial institutions.

“They have nice business plans, and they might have land and other little things, but the cash flow might be a problem, and then, after reaching out to financial institutions, they tend to struggle, not to get access to those loans,” he explained.

In response, Gillian Hyde, deputy managing director at JN Bank, said financial institutions in Jamaica stand ready to further partner with stakeholders to provide entrepreneurs in Jamaica and the diaspora with the financing necessary to start and grow their businesses.

“We want to bring that development community, together with the financial services community, to ensure that those plans actually prepare the entrepreneurs for investment from the financial entities,” she said.

“We want to see the business community getting that value, and it doesn’t appear as if, after they’ve gone through all of this development, they still have an issue when it comes to the financial institutions.”

EASY ACCESS TO FUNDING

Hyde added that special programmes at these financial institutions and partnerships between the financial services community and entities such as the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) have also ensured guarantees for persons who may not have sufficient collateral to easily access funding.

“At our JN Small Business arm, for instance, which we have now incorporated within JN Bank, we’ve set up some special initiatives specifically for start-ups. Originally, you used to have to be in business for six months, etc, before we would be able to invest in you. But now we’re saying, if you have your idea and you’re ready, come! We’re going to partner with the development agencies to ensure that those plans are solid. I know sometimes our entrepreneurs run away from documentation, but it’s the road map to ensure that they can be successful,” she stressed.

She noted that agencies of the State, such as the DBJ, also have various programmes to support startups and burgeoning businesses.

“The Development Bank of Jamaica has a technical voucher programme that allows you to access funds to seek engagement with regard to capacity building,” she added.

Valerie Veira, CEO of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), pointed out that the state entity remains committed to helping people take advantage of the many opportunities existing and emerging, with their mandate being to help entrepreneurs take their businesses from concept to market.

“We provide a full service, so you come to us with your idea and we have a consultation, and together, we conclude if it’s really a business or if it should remain a hobby. We are the network brokers. We won’t have everything you need, but we partner with other agencies and companies, public and private, that you can pull on for those services that you need,” she said.

The JN Group’s Diaspora Dialogue webinar was held on May 30 as a lead-up to the 10th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, scheduled for June 16 -19, 2024, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James.

The webinar panel also included Dmitri Dawkins, commercial director for Phoenix International – a division of the JN Group’s technology member company, MC Systems; Natalie Brown, head of investment banking at JN Fund Managers; and Joel Harris, co-founder and marketing director for Shavuot International, a herbal, fruit, and spice Jamaican brand.