The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in cooperation with the European Union today announced they are gearing up to provide grant funds to the CARIFORUM private sector via the DIRECT ASSISTANCE GRANT SCHEME (DAGS).

“The DAGS is one of the Agency’s most direct ways of providing support to the CARIFORUM private sector.  This reimbursement grant funding facility is designed to provide financial assistance to companies that are exporting or have the potential to export.  Under the revised DAGS programme, the ceiling for grants has increased to 50,000 Euros, with a minimum grant amount of 10,000 Euros” informed Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, Caribbean Export.

Over the next few months Caribbean Export will be sensitising businesses and Business Support Organisations (BSOs) across the region on the process to apply under the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS). This is to build the awareness of the Program ahead of the open call for proposals on April 23rd, 2018. Additionally, the Agency will be training representatives from in each of the CARIFORUM countries to become DAGS experts. Named Country Advisors, they will provide ongoing assistance to businesses during the application and reimbursement stages of the Program.

Luis Maia, First Counsellor, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM during his remarks stressed the vital role of small businesses in the creation of employment or for the reductions of unemployment and thus is the intention of the European Union to enhance the operation of small businesses in the Caribbean.   Small businesses provide “opportunities for those seeking to empower themselves to be innovative in developing businesses in new niche areas that can likewise employ others and also contribute to the economy. It is these types of enterprises that the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme will seek to foster and grow so that they can be positioned to penetrate export markets in the wider Caribbean as well as internationally, particularly utilising the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement” said Mr. Maia.

The European Union remains the world’s largest donor organisation and their cooperation with Caribbean Export to implement the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme valued at EUR 24 Million is a key regional initiative ultimately to support the increase employment creation, inclusiveness, particularly for youth, women and indigenous groups, and overall poverty reduction in CARIFORUM states.

“Given the need for urgent foreign exchange inflows to each of our regional economies, it is my view that DAGS can be leveraged, as an innovated investment interruption of our fragile economies through the mapping of creative funding options like this with an equally commensurate enterprising business support regime” expressed the Hon. Donville Inniss, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development.  Minister Inniss went on to say, “I am therefore of the strong view that going forward the focus of access to capital and market interventions must primarily be on local enterprise competitiveness among those MSMEs that fall within identified special priority sectors of the region.”

DAGS is reimbursement grant funding facility specifically designed to provide financial assistance to legally registered firms and individuals with the potential to export their products and services.

Direct assistance grants have typically been used by companies to modernize equipment, upgrade facilities to international food and quality standards, enhance products and packaging, implement alternative energy systems, train staff, develop collateral materials, market and promote products and services for export. The DAGS provides a platform that supports Caribbean businesses to become more innovative and compete internationally.