The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in collaboration with the European Union (EU), have entered a partnership to support regional MSMEs with financial assistance to help businesses retool and preserve jobs.
The partnership of Caribbean Export and the European Union has been a longstanding one. This Technical Assistance Programme represents the fourth round of grant support funded by the European Union under the EUR 30.8 m Regional Private Sector Development programme implemented by Caribbean Export. The Head of Cooperation in the EU Delegation in Barbados, Luis Maia, noted “I hope that this call for proposals will provide the necessary tools for firms to build resilience to navigate the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. I am therefore delighted that the CDB has joined the grant support programme which has so far benefited more than 600 firms in the Region.”
CDB and the EU will co-fund a grant facility via a Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and providing ongoing capacity building through e-learning. Caribbean Export will be the implementing agency for the TAP. CDB will contribute $600K USD.
“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 had supported in the past year to assist the business sector in its Borrowing Member Countries.
Both Caribbean Export and the CDB 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 per cent of respondents were forced to close physical locations, whilst approximately 45 per cent ceased production of goods and services and 80 per cent 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 & Promotions; Building Resilience; Purchase & Upgrade of Capital Goods; Certification; Capacity Building and Protection of Intellectual Property Rights.
To bring a holistic approach to supporting regional MSMEs impacted by the COVID-19 the provision of a suite of capacity building tools to complement the technical assistance are also to be developed. 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.