BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in collaboration with the European Union, have entered a partnership to support regional MSMEs with financial assistance to help businesses retool and preserve jobs.
CDB will fund a US$600,000 grant facility via the new initiative, the Technical Assistance Programme (TAP), designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and provide ongoing capacity building through e-learning. The programme was officially launched on Monday, May 31, with a virtual event.
“Caribbean Export is honoured to have been entrusted by CDB to implement such an important programme for our regional MSMEs. The funds are not only timely, but they are also necessary, if firms are to come back stronger, preserve jobs and create more,” shared Damie Sinanan, manager of the competitiveness and export promotion division responsible for the TAP at Caribbean Export.
Director of the projects department at CDB, Daniel Best, said: The initiative responded to an “urgent need for technical assistance and capacity-building programmes to help businesses survive, remain competitive and regain market share in export and domestic markets” in the wake of COVID-19.
He stated that it aligned with several other measures including loan support and capacity-building, which the bank has supported in the past year to assist the business sector in its Borrowing Member Countries.
The two organisations collaborated in 2020 with a regional survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on MSMEs operations; ascertain the level and areas of support that would be required to assist SMEs during the crisis, and better position firms to cope with the economic fallout. The survey highlighted that almost 50 percent of respondents were forced to close physical locations, whilst approximately 45 percent ceased production of goods and services and 80 percent had no continuity plan.
In view of these findings, the TAP presents an opportunity for these MSMEs to gain the technical assistance needed to develop their businesses to rebuild and retool in a manner to withstand future shocks.
MSMEs will be able to apply for grants of up to US$15,000 to be used on various technical assistance projects including, but not limited to resource efficiency and renewable energy; digitisation of business; marketing and promotions; building resilience; purchase and upgrade of capital goods; certification; capacity building and protection of intellectual property rights.
To bring a holistic approach to the support, a suite of capacity-building tools to complement the technical assistance is also going to be developed and provided under the programme. These tools will be made available to MSMEs online via an e-learning portal hosted by Caribbean Export. E-learning and its inherent accessibility advantages are even more important during this time when travel restrictions are still in place.