By JoEllen Laryea
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — In collaboration with the European Union, the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has approved funding to provide much needed financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) across 15 countries from the region.
Support was provided to SMEs engaged in vital sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing and creative industries. More specifically, Caribbean Export has awarded some US$1.1 million (€910K) in grant funding to SMEs in the Caribbean via its Direct Support Grant Programme (DSGP) to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
This initiative is driven by the results of a survey conducted in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on firms’ operations, ascertain the level and areas of support required to assist SMEs during the crisis, and better position businesses to cope with the economic fallout.
Initially, a total of US$607,000 (€500,000) was made available to the DSGP through the European Union as part of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), Regional Private Sector Development Programme. After receiving an overwhelming response and collaboration with the European Union, the Agency increased the overall amount of funding available to CARIFORUM firms, from US$600K to $1.1million (€500K to €910K).
“We recognise the challenges faced by micro, small and medium scale business across the CARIFORUM region, and we are happy that we can provide this initiative with the generous support of the European Union. We hope that these enterprises will use these resources to preserve precious jobs and create additional ones. Caribbean Export understands the importance of businesses playing a central role in the post-COVID-19 recovery, and we are committed to supporting that effort,” shared Deodat Maharaj, executive director of Caribbean Export.
Sixty-three companies have been awarded grants from sectors, including agro-processing (22), manufacturing (18), tourism (6), creative industries (4), professional services (5), agriculture (3), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) (3), and health and wellness (2).
Firms received grants of values between US$6,000 and $18,000 (€5,000 to €15,000) to implement projects in a range of areas such as energy efficiency, marketing and promotions, business recovery, and equipment purchase. Caribbean Export is grateful for its partnership with the European Union, which supports businesses across CARIFORUM. It supports the increase of employment creation and inclusiveness, particularly for youth, women, indigenous groups, and overall poverty reduction.
“The private sector is an important driver of growth and job creation in any country and a key partner of the European Union development action. Challenges can often be turned into opportunities for growth. I hope the grants will provide the necessary incentives for the beneficiaries to build resilience and look to innovation, to preserve and create the most needed jobs for the region,” declared Malgorzata Wasilewska, ambassador of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and CARIFORUM/Caribbean Community, CARICOM.