Building Bridges: How BSOs from Haiti and the Dominican Republic are Strengthening European Business Ties

Business leaders from Haitian and Dominican business supporting organizations (BSOs) participated in a trade and best practices mission to Europe to reactivate business opportunities for MSMEs from both countries that are and have the potential to export to the European Union (EU). This mission took place on April 17 – 28, 2023, and covered Paris, France; Madrid, Spain and Berlin Germany. In addition to reactivating business ties, these BSOs were also exploring best practices to support their respective private sector development efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in a time of economic downturn.

This mission was organized by Caribbean Export as part of its work to improve private sector dialogue under the implementation of the Trade and Private Sector of the Haiti-Dominican Republic Binational Cooperation Programme financed by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).

This binational delegation was comprised by representatives from various organizations such the Chambre Franco-Haïtienne de Commerce et d’Industrie-CFHCI (French-Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry), the Federación Dominicana de Cámaras de Comercio-FEDOCAMARAS (Dominican Federation of Chambers of Commerce), Cámara de Comercio y Producción de Santo Domingo-CCPSD (Chamber of Commerce and Production of Santo Domingo), Asociación Dominicana de Exportadores-ADOEXPO (Dominican Exporters’ Association) and the Centro de Resolución Alternativa de Controversias de la República Dominicana-CRC (Dominican Republic’s Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution).

The delegation visited prominent organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Court of Arbitration (ICA), Business France, Fundación de Estudios Estratégicos e Internacionales, and the chambers of industry and commerce in Germany. These organizations provided valuable insight and expertise on how to improve the services offered by the chambers of commerce in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The initiative provided the Haitian and Dominican Business Support Organizations the opportunity to explore new services to increase the quality and quantity of the services to be offered to their members, which will assist them with their functionality and sustainability in the long term. The improved access to the EU market is another benefit of the trade mission as it is one of the largest and most lucrative markets in the world.

This trade mission is a critical step in the development and growth of the Haitian and Dominican private sectors. It will enhance the ability of the chambers of commerce to provide essential services to their members, support their development and performance, and create a favorable environment for investment, ultimately contributing to the national economic development of both countries.

The initiative also provided an opportunity to generate binational synergy among the chambers of commerce from both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. By exploring and sharing the best practices of successful businesses in Europe, the chambers of commerce can improve their services, network, and contacts with international organizations.

The participating BSOs in this mission have taken an essential step towards strengthening the collaboration between their countries’ private sectors. By exploring the best practices of successful businesses in Europe, they can enhance the services provided to their members, support their development and performance, and create a favorable environment for investment, ultimately contributing to the national economic development of both countries.

Local SMEs get Product Development Advice

Competitiveness in manufacturing came under the microscope when Export Barbados (BIDC) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) co-hosted a free ProNET Workshop from April 20 to 21. The focus of the workshop, the second of its kind targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), was product development.

The two-day workshop, which came on the heels of the ProNET Export Marketing Workshop held in March, was fully subscribed. It sought to help SMEs improve their products and expand their markets.

During the workshop’s opening at Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Centre, Export Barbados’ Chief Executive Officer, Mark Hill, noted Barbados was lagging behind the rest of the Caribbean in innovation and therefore workshops like this are extremely critical to help turn things around.

“We have a vision of becoming the most innovative island in the whole world, but the gap between our capacity to innovate and our capacity to do product development is very big. So, workshops of this nature are critical to helping us close the gap, particularly for our economy. I want to urge everybody to be open-minded and receptive to the ideas and solutions that you are exposed to. We’re a society that is risk averse, but innovation and product development as a building block is the only sure way to grow our economy and the only sure way to grow your business,” Hill said.

During her remarks, Senior Advisor, Competitiveness and Export Promotion with Caribbean Export, Natasha Walcott, said Caribbean Export is committed to building capacity among SMEs. Referring specifically to Barbados, she revealed that between 2017 and 2022, there were 1,461 participants in Caribbean Export programming.

“Of the in-person activities, there were nine training and certification programmes. Sixty-four companies participated in activities under the export promotion rubric, and that represents trade missions and expos. In our flagship grants programs, we have assisted 35 firms to the tune of US $860,000 in grant assistance,” Walcott said.

ProNET master trainer, Dr. Ramesh Ramdeen, who conducted the workshop, said that regional companies need to master exporting among themselves before looking at making any meaningful impact extra-regionally:

“What we need to do is ensure that the products we produce within the region meet the standards of quality to be able to penetrate the regional markets. We need to understand what our competitive and comparative advantages are. We can’t sell clothes to China. We can’t sell things people are producing better than us or more efficiently than us. So, we need to understand what our niches are. But we need to understand, as well, how to regionally move goods among ourselves. We need to get the CSME [CARICOM Single Market and Economy] working up to scratch.”

Dr. Ramdeen also said there was a captive market in the region with 7 million people between Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago and 30 to 40 million once the Dominican Republic and Cuba were included. He suggested regional leaders should carefully examine the existing laws and frameworks that curtail trade and agriculture from developing as they should.

ProNET is a training program offered by Caribbean Export for SMEs looking to grow their businesses and make them more competitive and export ready.

This release was originally published on Export Barbados’ website.

Caribbean firms increased market share and developed new global partnerships, Caribbean Export reveals in annual results

  • Caribbean Export’s Annual Results Report 2022 released to stakeholders at event in Barbados.
  • Results Report shows 1,000 regional business professionals took part in 30 interventions.
  • Agency received highest ever  implementation rate of 89%

Over 135 regional micro- small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) received over $2.1m (US) in funding to boost their businesses last year, the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has revealed in its Annual Results Report – 2022.

Caribbean Export released its ‘Annual Results Report – 2022’ at the Hilton Barbados on Thursday 20 April in front of an audience consisting of local, regional and international stakeholders, diplomats, beneficiaries, Caribbean Export employees, and the media.

The report outlined how the regional trade and investment promotion agency has focused on a transformational agenda to build a ‘GREENer, SMARTer, and more resilient Caribbean’ by empowering over 1,000 business professionals through 30 interventions such as training, workshops, investment forums, and access to international tradeshows.

Caribbean Export’s Executive Director, Deodat Maharaj, said he was particularly proud of the agency’s 89% implementation rate which he believed was making “a real difference on the ground” to MSMEs which account for 70% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product and 75% of its total employment.

He thanked the European Union (EU) for its “long and enduring” support while revealing efforts to bring more financial partners onboard such as the CAF-development bank of Latin America and Republic Bank.

Mr Maharaj stated: “We are at a critical crossroads and we have the option of focusing on business as usual or advancing a truly transformational agenda for our region, giving jobs and opportunity for our people… At Caribbean Export we will continue to strive for excellence and value for money with a forensic focus on results, results, results.”

Barbados’ Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Business Development, Sandra Husbands, congratulated Caribbean Export on “a year of work that was very well done”. She emphasised how important the private sector is to the region for its overall stability, growth, and development before calling on MSMEs to “take full advantage” of the funding and programmes offered by Caribbean Export and its financial partners.

During the event, guests also heard impactful video testimonials from entrepreneurs based in Belize, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Barbados who have partnered with Caribbean Export. In person, Sabrina Walcott from O’s Incorporated, which produces gluten-free flours and mixes made from breadfruit, sweet potato, and cassava in Barbados, was full of praise for the agency’s help which she said had given the business “knowledge and experience, and encouragement to venture into new areas”. She credited Caribbean Export with moving the Barbadian brand from “her mother’s kitchen to a tailor-made factory”.

Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the EU to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, OECS, and CARICOM / CARIFORUM, David Mogollon, reiterated the bloc’s unwavering commitment to Caribbean Export’s work.

Since 2017, the EU has invested over €27.5m (EUROS) in grants into the Regional Private Sector Programme to support the implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which represents around 90% of Caribbean Export’s budget. Mr Mogollon confirmed the EU will continue to partner with Caribbean Export to improve economic growth in the region especially in terms of digital transformation.

Chairperson of Caribbean Export’s Board of Directors, Dr Lynette Holder, underscored the range and reach of Caribbean Export’s projects and programmes in 2022, including the highly-successful Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) held in Trinidad and Tobago in October which attracted 535 delegates from 46 countries.

She revealed that CIF 2023 will take place in the Bahamas later this year. Ms Holder added: “It has been a transformative year for the agency. A strong foundation has been built and Caribbean Export has a bright future ahead. I am sure it will remain a key partner of choice in the region and continue to address the present and future needs of its members.”

Local Businesses’ Export Capacity Improved

Several local businesses became better equipped with skills to sell their products and services abroad when Export Barbados (BIDC) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) joined forces to host a free ProNET Export Marketing Workshop from March 22 to 24, 2023.

Nearly 40 participants registered for the ProNET workshop geared toward building and streamlining their export capabilities. Participants included established manufacturers and small businesses from across the productive sectors. The sessions covered topics such as export readiness, export strategies, market research, export pricing and financing, regulatory compliance and developing an export plan. ProNET trainer Maxine Harris facilitated the workshop.

During the opening ceremony, participants were encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities highlighted for export within the Caribbean and beyond. Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Export Barbados (BIDC) Andrea Burgess noted that the workshop aimed to transform the approach to exporting goods and services from Barbados.

“Networking is key to establishing meaningful connections within your individual industries and within the export arena. During this workshop, we also encourage you to engage in open discussions, share experiences and forge bonds with fellow attendees that will help your businesses to be stronger in the long run. These connections could lead to future collaborations and partnerships. Through this ProNET training workshop, we also aim to empower you with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the export market,” Burgess said.

ProNET is a training program offered by Caribbean Export for small and medium-sized enterprises looking to grow their businesses and make them more competitive and export ready. Ms. JoEllen Laryea, Manager (Ag) – Partnerships, Advocacy & Reporting with Caribbean Export, explained the thinking behind the initiative:

“What we do is that we look at the business service organizations, and we ask them to identify training that they think is necessary for their sectors, knowing their sectors best. For this particular iteration, Export Barbados identified export marketing and product development as two areas they felt would be important for the country right now. So, as such, we chose to start with our Export Marketing program first, and follow up with Product Development next month.”

The ProNET Product Development Workshop is scheduled for April 20-21, 2023, and will cover the steps needed to bring a product from concept to market.

This release was originally published on Export Barbados’ website

Taking Forward the Africa – Caribbean Trade and Investment Partnership

It is good to see movement to deepen the trade and investment partnership between Africa and the Caribbean. Indeed, just recently, the Africa Export Import Bank announced that they would be opening an office in Barbados and have committed USD1.5 billion to help advance a trade partnership with the Caribbean. This follows the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum that took place last September in the Caribbean. We need to maintain this momentum since it is high time that we build on our inextricable and deeply intertwined history and bonds with Africa for the benefit of both the people of Africa and the Caribbean.

However, to achieve concrete progress, a lot of work must be done. According to the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Trade Map, in 2021, Africa’s exports to CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic represented a mere 0.001% of Africa’s total exports. For us in the Region, our exports as a percentage of total exports, just 1.4% go to Africa, with petroleum products being the main trade between CARICOM and West Africa, particularly with Gabon and Ghana. . In essence, the limited trade we have with Africa is dominated by just a few products and a small number of countries. The question then arises, how do we take our trade and investment relationship with Africa to the next level leveraging on our excellent people-to-people, historical and cultural ties given the existing patterns and size of trade?

To begin with, in redefining this relationship, the Caribbean must have a forensic focus. Firstly, we must recognise that Africa is not a monolith. There are 54 countries on this vast continent with acute differences in terms of regions and subregions. Just in terms of language and in addition to the multiplicity of local, national, and regional variants, large swathes of Africa speak English, French and Portuguese. Just take one country like Tanzania where I served and lived in my first stint on the continent, it has over 120 ethnic groups and dialects. Nigeria, the largest country on the continent is even more complex as is South Africa, one of the twenty richest economies on the planet. Therefore, for us in the Caribbean as a small region dealing with a vast continent, it is important to recognise that whilst politically we want a greater relationship with Africa, on the economic front, we need to focus on fewer countries in the first instance.

Secondly, we should therefore start where our strengths lay, we need to build on the existing foundation we have in West Africa. Some businesses such as Republic Bank Ltd have a well-established presence. Similarly, in the area of Financial Technology, a partnership was formed among Barbados Global Integrated FinTech Solutions (GIFTS), iPay Anywhere (iPay) and TelNet, a Nigerian digital transformation company, which will ultimately give access to 200 million customers through the TelNet database. On the flip side, GIFTS has partnered with Ghana-based fintech firm Zeepay to offer Barbadians- Zeemoney, the mobile wallet which gives users the ability to transfer funds to other users of the Zeemoney platform. This is the perfect example of the reciprocal opportunities that exist between the two regions and the benefit of a clear focus reinforced by concrete action. Success begets success and lays the strongest foundation for an expanding partnership.

Thirdly, we need to transition from a traditional representation approach to diplomacy to one that is commercial, building on existing diplomatic relationships and creating new ones. A few Caribbean countries have already started on this path. However, it cannot be individual and ad-hoc, it has to be part of a coherent and systematic approach to commercial diplomacy. Related to this is building relationships with countries in Africa akin to our size and share common concerns on issues such as climate vulnerability and the need for concessional financing. Island countries and small states on the continent such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Sierra Leone, and Namibia will be natural allies and champions for us in the inner sanctum of African decision making at the African Union and elsewhere.

Looking ahead we have the option of proceeding with business as usual and proceeding incrementally which will see yet another opportunity lost. Alternatively, we can advance a transformational agenda that can reset and reshape the trade and investment relationship with Africa. Having lived, served and travelled extensively across Africa, I have seen first-hand the massive opportunities for us in this time of Rising Africa. To take our relationship to this next level, we need a sustained focus to build on existing relationships and forge key partnerships on the continent.

Deodat Maharaj is the Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency and can be reached at:

Huge Economic Benefits to be Reaped from Renewable Energy Transition

  • Green economy transition can create 400,000 jobs in Caribbean region
  • Investors need political stability and policy continuity to invest in long-term renewable energy projects
  • Trinidad and Tobago will soon have hydrogen road map (end of November) to a fully decarbonised energy industry over the next 40 years
  • Consultant says societies must recognise that energy transition is ongoing – it will never stop
  • From kindergarten onward – education about climate change is critical
  • Small business owner says not financially viable to go green without incentives

CARICOM member states have committed to a target of 47% electricity generation from renewables by 2027.   This will require billions of investment dollars. So how can the region make renewables attractive to investors?  And why should the Caribbean take on this burden when CARICOM’s total contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is extremely small?

A compelling case was made at the recently held Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) on the enormous economic benefits the region would reap from transitioning to renewable energy usage.

CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett warned that climate change was an existential threat to island nations.  “To combat it we are required to build environmental and economic resilience urgently.”  Building a robust renewable energy sector also presents an opportunity for economic transformation, she said, and noted that the cross-sectoral impact of energy transition within the Caribbean will:

  1. liberate the region from energy dependency and lessen its exposure to energy price shocks;
  2. create fiscal space and lessen the burden on countries’ foreign exchange reserves;
  3. provide new and more flexible energy, and other environmental services to commercial and industrial consumers;
  4. provide new avenues for investors to receive stable returns on infrastructure development? investments; and
  5. create new energy services companies and in the process create new employment.

Echoing her sentiments, Caribbean Export Executive Director Deodat Maharaj said: “A green economy transition presents the ideal opportunity to lessen pressure on foreign exchange reserves as well as limit exposure to price volatility in international energy markets, which we are seeing now. Equally as important, the transition has the potential to spur economic growth by lowering the marginal cost of energy for the private sector as well as lowering overall energy intensity.”

In addition, he noted that a 2020 report jointly published by the International Labour Organization and the Inter-American Development Bank, “estimated that a green economy transition will help create approximately 400,000 jobs, a big boost to our economies.”

The International Renewable Energy Agency has also estimated that for every US dollar invested in energy transition, an additional US93 cents of GDP growth will occur above the business-as-usual scenario in the region, Maharaj said.

But how will the region finance the billions of dollars needed to undertake the necessary projects? This was the focus of the Renewable Energy Roundtable, entitled Energy transition: Making renewables attractive for private sector investment, on Day 3 (November 11th 2022) of the Caribbean Investment Forum, which was held at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad, and organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in collaboration with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies with the support of the European Union.

Speakers comprised:

  • Moderator – Dr Damie Sinanan, Manager – Competitiveness & Export Promotion, Caribbean Export
  • Vernon Paltoo, President – National Energy Corporation T&T (NEC)
  • Federico Fische, Regional Co-ordinator, PFAN: Latin America & The Caribbean Private Financing Advisory Network
  • Jari Aaltonen, Manager – Bloom Cluster
  • Michael McQuilkin, Manager-Investment Banking, Republic Bank

“NEC has been working with the IDB and by the end of this month (November) we will launch T&T’s hydrogen road map, which would lay the framework for how it would achieve a decarbonised energy industry over the next 40 years”, Paltoo said.  “This is a long-term plan starting with energy efficiency, then renewable energy and ultimately decarbonisation and calls for partnership between the private and public sectors”, Paltoo continued.

Predicting that Trinidad and Tobago would be a producer and exporter of hydrogen in the foreseeable future, he disclosed that, an estimated 25 gigawatts of power would be required by the country’s petrochemical, energy and power industries: “we have determined that offshore winds are the most reasonable option,” to achieve this.  Further studies are still to be done, he added.

Republic Bank’s McQuilkin said the returns on renewable energy projects “are attractive and very long-term.”  but the projects were very costly so an investor must have the confidence that the overall financial structure will be long-term and that needs political stability to ensure the investment decisions would not be reversed.   He also hoped to see regional manufacturing have opportunities and he suggested the need for training and coaching for the local population to participate in the benefits from renewable energy investment.

One small business owner in the audience pointed out the capital cost to transition might be too much for a small business.  He estimated that to convert his fleet of delivery vehicles to CNG would cost upwards of TT$70,000.  “Are there incentives being considered for small, hyper localised businesses like mine? he asked Paltoo.

Fische said societies needed to understand that energy transition was not only necessary, it would never stop.  The culture needs to change to support that notion, he said.  “The technology is going to move the transition forever,” he said. 

Endorsing the view that populations needed to understand that energy transition was needed “to ensure continuity of life as we know it,” Paltoo advised that education was critical, from early childhood to university, to achieve this.

The inaugural Caribbean Investment Forum, set to become a flagship event on Caribbean Exports’ calendar,  took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad from November 8-11, 2022.  The high-level, business-focused event connected key regional decision-makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the world’s most influential investors to explore the investment opportunities available throughout the region. It also served as a launch pad for thought leaders keen on accruing the benefits of first-mover advantages in this developing space. Under the theme Building A SMARTer, GREENer Caribbean, stakeholders focused, in particular, on investment opportunities in technology, agriculture, renewable energy, transport and logistics and innovation.   These projects will improve the lives of over 30 million Caribbean people in the countries across the Region

Increased Trade and Investment to Bolster Business Growth with MOU Signing’s

  • Caribbean Export signs MOUs with the World Trade Center Miami (WCTM) and Canning House to bolster the Caribbean’s investment promotion.
  • Businesses across the region are set to benefit from partnerships.
  • The Caribbean Investment Forum set the backdrop for the MOU signing in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the World Trade Center Miami (WTCM) and Canning House agreeing on a framework to sustain trade and investment promotion efforts in the Caribbean.

The official signing took place at the landmark Caribbean Investment Forum, which was held 8-11 November 2022 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Addressing the media Deputy Executive Director of Caribbean Export, Mr. Leo Naut noted “the new business paradigm calls for increased partnerships. This means that CARIFORUM businesses, workers, and producers will need to collaborate and work smarter to successfully compete globally and enter new markets for trade and the attraction of investment.  Caribbean Export, alongside our partners, stand as a united front to support and enable business growth, expansion, and collaboration. In this new age of partnership, we are happy to onboard two new partners to bring forth prosperity and development to the Caribbean region”.

Canning House based in London, UK has the objective of building understanding and relationships between the UK, Latin America and Iberia.  In his remarks Juan Teran Jurado, Corporate Affairs Manager at Canning House, expressed his gratitude at being part of the Caribbean Investment Forum and for the opportunity to “deepen the economic trade and investment relationships between the UK and Latin America”.  Canning House is a global forum for thought-leadership and pragmatic debate on the region’s political, economic, social, health and environmental trends and issues – and their implications for business risks and opportunities.

Florida, for many reasons, logistically and with a large Caribbean diaspora, is an important gateway for Caribbean investment and trade and home to the WTCM.

Ivan Barrios, President of the World Trade Center Miami, shared that the Caribbean was very important to the South Florida community and that the signing of the MOU was timely given a new series of seminars being planned for the Caribbean titled “How to export your products to the United States using Miami as a platform”.

The World Trade Center Miami is a powerful driver for business growth and economic prosperity of Florida and as a non-profit stimulates trade and investment opportunities for commercial property developers, economic development agencies, and international businesses looking to connect globally and prosper locally.

The two MOUs come after more than two years of uncertainty and tepid business activity, and signals that the Caribbean is open for business.   

Caribbean Export, supported by the European Union, as the regional investment and trade promotion agency, whose mandate, is to help build a resilient Caribbean, views support and partnerships vital to sustain and create business opportunities particularly when the world and small states are confronted with immense economic challenges.

The Caribbean Investment Forum placed strategic focus on sectors such as the digital economy, renewable energy, agriculture technology (AgTech) and logistics and transportation; all sectors deemed critical for the sustainable development of our economies. The Caribbean Investment Forum was hosted by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the European Union, The CARICOM Secretariat, Ministry of Trade and Industry Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Development Bank.

Caribbean Export and India Exim Bank Launch New Study on Trade Between CARIFORUM and India

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), the region’s foremost investment and trade promotion agency, has launched a brand-new publication in collaboration with Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank India). The publication, entitled “Enhancing India CARIFORUM Economic Relations and Prospects for Cooperation”, which explores trade opportunities between Caribbean countries and India was introduced to more than 400 attendees present at the Caribbean Investment Forum in Trinidad and Tobago.

Caribbean Export is committed to facilitating growth of the regional private sector through economic development and integration programming.  The Agency partnered with Exim Bank India to produce this study to unlock the investment and export opportunities for entrepreneurs on both sides. 

The study expands on the key features of India – CARIFORUM economic relations and explores the mutual benefits to be derived from trade. Notably it states that “India has potential to expand exports in product categories such as mineral fuels and oils, electronics, transport vehicles, cereals, optical instruments, meat and edible meat offal, and animal or vegetable fats and oils etc”.

Speaking at the Caribbean Investment Forum via video link, Mr. N Ramesh, Deputy Managing Director of India Exim Bank, opened Day 2 of the Caribbean Investment Forum with a speech centered on the publication’s areas of significance. Mr. Ramesh drew the audience’s attention to the fact that “for the Export-Import Bank of India, the Latin America and the Caribbean region has always been a region of focus, to promote and support two-way trade and investment” and that trade between India and the Caribbean region had seen robust growth, “from a meagre level of US$ 52.4 million in 2001, India and Caribbean trade was recorded at US$ 1.7 billion in 2021.” 

He went on to share “As a partner institution to promote economic development in LAC, India Exim Bank has set in place various activities and programs, which contribute to sharing India’s development experience through capacity building and skill transfer, trade, and infrastructure development.”

Caribbean Export’s Deputy Executive Director, Leo Naut, presented the publication to High Commission of India in Trinidad and Tobago’s Charge d’affaires Mr. Raju Sharma at the event.  Naut expressed that the joint research report was an important contribution to not only serve as a valuable reference for policy makers and academia but also for businesses to discover new opportunities for trade. 

The Caribbean’s investment opportunities were strategically spotlighted at the Caribbean Investment Forum, namely: AgTech, digital business including e- commerce, innovation, and technology; Green economy transition, and transport and logistics. In collaboration with Caribbean Export, the new study is part of India Exim Bank’s Working Paper Series which serves to enrich the knowledge of Indian exporters to improve India’s competitiveness overall.

Africa and the Caribbean Could Become the Green Energy Producers for Europe in the Future

European Union Ambassador Peter Cavendish believes that Africa and the Caribbean can be the green hydrogen producers of the future.  In addition, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), Wamkele Mene, says the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia could potentially control the market for lithium-ion batteries.

These revelations were made at a Press Conference that followed the Opening Ceremony of the inaugural Caribbean Investment Forum organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) being held from November 8 – 11, 2022 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ambassador Cavendish believes sustainable energy is an area in which both the Caribbean and Africa have significant competitive advantage and could significantly impact the world.  He spoke of the fundamental shift that has taken place in Europe that historically believed it was energy secure and energy independent.  We realise now we are energy dependent and he spoke of how recently “the Middle East, the Norwegians, the Americans and the Nigerians stepped in to help us with our energy needs in time of crisis.”  This heralded a gigantic change that has taken place in European psychology and I think both the Caribbean and African nations will be able to benefit from that, he said.

The Caribbean has solar, wind, wave, river water, and 19 volcanos from which it can generate energy, he said.   “The Caribbean and Africa together have the potential to be the major green hydrogen supplier for Europe in the future,” he said. “You have a gigantic energy advantage” that will last through the lifetimes of you, your children and your grandchildren, he assured.

Both in his Keynote Address and at the press conference, Ambassador Mene highlighted a common obstacle blocking growth and development in both the Caribbean and Africa. He said both regions needed to retain a much greater percentage of the value created from their primary resources.  While those resources could, for example, be sun and sea, cocoa, spices, oxide or gold, Mene highlighted the example of lithium cobalt oxide.  He noted that while the DRC and Zambia were the leading producers in the world of this key input into the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, they historically have never produced batteries.  Similarly, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are major producers of cocoa but do not make chocolates. “Value-added is very important…there must be a shift of investment to the production sector,” Mene said.

Caribbean Export Executive Director Deodat Maharaj also pointed out that studies have shown that less than 10 cents of every tourism dollar spent in the Caribbean is retained in the Caribbean.

In Africa, change has begun.  Last year, the governments of DRC and Zambia agreed to stop the export of unprocessed oxide and work together to produce lithium batteries.  In addition, the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have agreed there will be no more exporting unprocessed cocoa.  “The DRC and Zambia could potentially control the market for lithium batteries,” Mene told the media.  He also predicted that “in 10-15 years, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire would be major producers of coffee and chocolate.

Mene hopes that Africa and the Caribbean will work together to align their export and investment strategies,  to increase trade and investment between both regions.  He said he already regarded the Caribbean as “the sixth region” in AFCFTA and discussions have already begun for direct airlift between West Africa and the Caribbean.  The African EXIM Bank has also made US$900 million available to the region to further advance engagement between Africa and the Caribbean.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Trade & Industry Minister, Paula Gopee-Scoon, revealed that Trinidad and Tobago “will open a commercial office in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023 to facilitate trade and investment.”

Inaugural Caribbean Investment Forum Highlights Huge Investment Opportunities

  • Inaugural Caribbean Investment Forum opened today (November 9, 2022) in Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Overwhelming response to Caribbean Export’s invitation with over 500 in-person attendees from over 35 countries
  • Urgent call issued for private sector to take central role to build and transform Caribbean economy
  • Less talk and more business, promises Caribbean Export Head
  • Study shows huge potential for Caribbean exports to Africa, says H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA)

Before it had even begun, it was clear the inaugural Caribbean Investment Forum was a resounding success given the overwhelming in-person attendance of 500+ delegates from over 35 countries.

This no doubt reflects the urgency felt by business people, investors, eager entrepreneurs, government officials across the region, and even diplomats and ordinary citizens to see the Caribbean confront and triumph over the threats to their survival and create a bright new future for its people.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), Deodat Maharaj, said: “The key is for us to focus on the main drivers that can truly advance Caribbean transformation” and so the Forum has focused on:

  1. Green economy transition
  2. Digitalisation technology and innovation
  3. Agriculture; and
  4. Transport and logistics.

The investment, job creation and business opportunities relating to these sectors are huge.
CARICOM Secretariat Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, noted that CARICOM Heads have set a target of 47% electricity generation from renewables by 2027 and have committed to reducing the Region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025. “Over the period 2018-2020, the CARICOM food import bill was US$13.76 billion or approximately 5% of GDP,” she said.

Digital technologies could radically transform and create opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing and services; accelerate growth for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs); and reshape energy systems, she also noted.

“I believe that if we make progress in these sectors, we will achieve success. However, to build a truly resilient Caribbean, business must be an essential partner, playing not a peripheral or tangential role but a central role,” Maharaj emphasized.

Investment therefore matters more than ever, Barnett said, particularly given the fall in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), from a peak of US$6.65 billion in 2008 to US$3.9 billion in 2019 to US$2.4 billion with the onset of the pandemic.

EU Ambassador Peter Cavendish believes the Caribbean’s attraction to investors include its access to the European market, having the world’s number one cocoa genome and cocoa research centre, and its leading institutes and organisations such as the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute. He stressed that under the Economic Partnership Agreements with Caribbean nations, the EU can offer considerable technical expertise and advice as well as financial resources to addressing the Caribbean’s investment and transformation needs.

However, H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), believes the Caribbean and the African continent have much to gain by co-operating with each other in trade and investment. He sees compelling and urgent reasons for the two regions to forge strong commercial ties, building on the primarily historical and emotional bonds that have connected them thus far.

Delivering the Keynote Address entitled “New Markets, New Investments for New Times”, Mene referenced the two recent seismic events that exposed a common vulnerability of the two regions: the Covid-19 pandemic that “saw our two regions at the back of the queue for much-needed vaccines” and the Russia-Ukraine conflict that disrupted supply chains and has caused both food insecurity and food inflation. These two events indicate that Africa and the Caribbean region must rely more on each other and less on their traditional markets, he said.

“As we see these changes in the economic paradigms of the world, we must diversify our markets for exports and investments. That’s why this Forum is so very important,” Mene said. Noting that Caribbean exports to the African continent was negligible at 4.4% of total exports, he pointed to a recent study by the International Trade Centre which saw significant potential for this to grow to up to US$1 billion over the next five years in areas ranging from agro-processing, health care, tourism and the automobile sector.

The study also saw opportunity for Africa to boost its annual merchandise exports to the Caribbean by 54% or US$170 million annually by the year 2026 covering over 200 tariff lines. “The Continent of Africa offers an opportunity for the Caribbean as a new partner, an opportunity to diversify your export markets, to create export jobs in the Caribbean and be globally competitive,” Mene said. “The Caribbean region can also expand exports of goods to Africa by US$80 million or 29%” and this would be even more if services and transport are added, he said.

The African Continental Free Trade Area represents a market of 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion. According to a McKensie & Co study, this GDP is forecast to grow to almost US$7 trillion by 2055.

In her remarks, Trinidad and Tobago’s Trade & Industry Minister, Sen. Paula Gopee-Scoon said: “We trust that this Forum will act as a catalyst to boost our entire region’s (FDI) flows and this is a major reason why we are here – to showcase our progress and bankable investment opportunities.”

With a packed and interesting programme, she particularly highlighted the Transport and Logistics Roundtable on Day 3, saying it promised “to be an exciting one, with regional participants, including from key Port Authorities, discussing the advantages of the Caribbean’s location and mutually beneficial avenues for investments in areas such as port infrastructure and services and strengthened logistics, among others.”

The Caribbean Investment Forum is a four-day, high-level business-focused event designed to present and explore these investment opportunities across the region. The regional forum is organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency in collaboration with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies and with the support of the European Union.

The Forum is taking place from the 8-11th of November 2022 at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad and Tobago and connects key regional decision-makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the world’s most influential investors.

Under the theme ‘Building A SMARTer, GREENer, Caribbean’, stakeholders will learn and explore some of the most attractive investment opportunities in technology, agriculture, renewable energy, and innovation; and hopefully advance projects that will improve the lives of over 30 million Caribbean People in the 23 Countries across the Region.

Regional Business Forum Set to Unleash Caribbean’s Investment Potential

  • Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF 2022) will showcase development opportunities in the region.
  • Over 400 decision makers, industry experts and government stakeholders will attend CIF 2022.
  • Forum will connect investors with entrepreneurs to build a ‘SMARTer, GREENer Caribbean’.

Global business leaders looking to invest in the Caribbean and connect with regional innovators and entrepreneurs will soon be gathering at the highly anticipated Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF 2022).

The Forum, which takes place in Trinidad from 8-11 November, will bring together more than 400 top tier regional and international executives to explore over 20 investment projects in the key areas of AgTech, The Green Economy, Transportation and Logistics, and Digital Business.

CIF 2022 attendees will meet with talented individuals and teams who are working on innovative, viable, and cutting edge projects that are ready to move into the next exciting phase of development.

The inaugural Forum is the ideal platform for foreign-direct investors who are ready and willing to collaborate on programmes that will boost regional growth, create long-term jobs, and transform the Caribbean into a ‘GREEN-er and SMART-er’ economy.

The three-day event will also include thought-provoking talks from an impressive cadre of speakers, including the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon.

They will be joined by several world-class presenters including the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, H.E Wamkele Mene, Founding Managing Partner at Celesta Capital, Dr Nicholas Brathwaite, JetBlue Ventures’ Managing Director of Operations & Partnerships, Stephen Snyder, and Executive Director of Invest SVG, Annette Mark.

Some of the topics being examined are ‘Financing for investment’, ‘ICT and digital business’, and ‘Private sector engagement for Caribbean transformation’. There will also be roundtables, panel discussions, site visits, and mix and mingle networking opportunities.

CIF 2022 is being hosted by the Caribbean Export Development Agency with support from the European Union, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.

Book your place at the Caribbean Investment Forum here –

Caribbean Brands Stand Out from the Crowd at SIAL Paris 2022

  • 14 Caribbean brands showcased products in France under the ‘Absolutely Caribbean’ pavilion.
  • Over 300,000 agri-food industry professionals visited the tradeshow from 15-19 October.
  • SIAL Paris 2022 attracted importers, buyers, distributors, and retailers from around the world.

Caribbean food and drink brands stood out from the crowd at the recently concluded international tradeshow ‘SIAL Paris 2022’, with premium products ranging from coffee and chocolate to rum and wine.

Exhibiting under the ‘Absolutely Caribbean’ umbrella with the support of the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the European Union, 14 Caribbean brands made a lasting impression on thousands of agri-food professionals with their authentic, innovative, and unique products which use natural, flavourful ingredients.

SIAL is the world’s leading bi-annual trade fair and this year it attracted around 300,000 visitors along with 7,000 exhibitors from over 200 countries. The major tradeshow has not been held since 2018 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so visitors were looking forward to five days of networking, engagement, and discovery, with organisers saying the event could generate close to €50 billion in business transactions.

After visiting the ‘Absolutely Caribbean’ booth, commercial director at Wanis, a leading UK food and drink distributor, George Philips, told Caribbean Export that he was impressed with the range of premium Caribbean products on show at SIAL. He said: “I think this shows that all of the Caribbean manufacturers are stepping up their game and they are really pushing out brands that can compete with anything in Europe or the US.”

Co-founder of J & J Spirits, Jack Astacio, said he was “proud and happy” to be exhibiting at SIAL. Speaking shortly after the event got under way, he added: “We have received a lot of interest from around the world, like the Philippines and Africa, and that’s why it’s important to be here. We’ve also been humbled by all the information and feedback so now we can take that back to our countries and do any necessary adjustments.”

Managing director at Coffee Roasters of Jamaica Limited, Mark Fletcher, said he hoped exhibiting in Paris would help his brand break into the European market: “We’ve already had some good interest in our products so we hope those leads turn into orders”, he stated.

Reflecting at the end of the event, VincyFresh’s Shelly-Ann Fraser, described taking part in SIAL as “a privilege”. She added: “It was an absolute pleasure serving samples to visitors to our stand and watching and hearing their delightful reactions to our fine collection of sauces, marinades and condiments.

“The networking opportunities were awesome. I met with market leaders and distributors of our line of products operating in Europe and Africa. VincyFresh is very grateful for this opportunity to expose our world-class products to an international audience.”

The Caribbean companies showcasing at SIAL Paris 2022 were; Native Organics from The Bahamas, Barbados’ Superb Blend, Belize’s Truly Turmeric, The Dominican Republic’s Chicharon The World’s Cinnamon Rum and J&J Spirits, SRL, Only Coconuts from Guyana, Choko Lakay from Haiti, Coffee Roasters of Jamaica Ltd, St Lucia’s Cacoa Sainte Lucie and St Lucia Distillers, Flauriel from St Kitts and Nevis, Sishado from Suriname, V’Toria Rhonda Vineyard & Winery from Trinidad and Tobago and VincyFresh Ltd from St Vincent and the Grenadines.