By Deidre Brathwaite
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados —Grants totalling nearly USD 1 million have been awarded to 61 small businesses in CARIFORUM member states to provide a bridge post-pandemic and increase exports in domestic and international markets. The Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) grant facility was implemented by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and jointly funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Union.
The TAP was set up after a survey exploring the impact of COVID-19 on businesses in the region found an overwhelming need for flexible funding over different time periods. The survey was carried out by Caribbean Export and the CDB.
“We listened and responded swiftly to MSMEs during the pandemic by providing a significant boost to drive growth and innovation in major and emerging sectors. The programme will continue to invest in our businesses in the region to help generate jobs and opportunity for our people,” said Deodat Maharaj, executive director of Caribbean Export.
Businesses could apply for one-off grants of up to USD 15,000. They were encouraged to take part through online information sessions. Eligibility was based on simple criteria: a minimum of two years trading in a CARIFORUM member state. The facility provided support for a range of business activities, including business digitalisation, marketing, certification, protection of intellectual property rights and resource efficiency and renewable energy.
“The European Union, for many years, has supported the development Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the Caribbean through the Caribbean Export Development Agency. The Technical Assistance Programme Grant Facility was deployed to assist companies in recovering from the COVID pandemic and therefore I look forward to seeing the impact it has had”, declared EU ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska.
Out of the 61 grants already awarded, businesses from all CARIFORUM member states have benefited. Manufacturing and agriculture and agro-processing emerged as the largest sectors, accounting for 42 person of the total grants, followed by professional services (15%). Younger business owners aged between 18 and 35 accounted for at least 16 percent of the grantees. Among businesses awarded, 26 percent were headed by women.
“For many regional entrepreneurs, navigating such an unprecedented pandemic, and feeling the weight of responsibility – not just for the survival of their enterprises but for their livelihoods, health and wellbeing of staff, customers, and suppliers has required a Herculean effort,” emphasised CDB’s director, projects department, Daniel Best.
“CDB is therefore extremely pleased to have assisted in improving the resilience of these 61 MSMEs by providing much needed financing to help them realise improved production efficiencies, product quality, management of financial resources, and to obtain enhanced business support services, all of which are critical to enhance their competitiveness.”