“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come” – Revelation 14:6-7
The Barbados Government convened the promised two-day Inaugural Barbados Diaspora Conference on Friday as an integral part of government’s outreach to the Diaspora.
There were 450 people who registered, both local and Diaspora, and the theme was “Strengthening the Bonds that Unite Us”. There were Diaspora delegates primarily from North America, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean. This event was designed to explore ways to realise national objectives pertaining to the Diaspora. It also gave Barbadians and Friends of Barbados residents abroad the opportunity to discuss ways in which they can make tangible contributions to the development of our island and to catalyse efforts to have a pool of resources at the country’s disposal. The point was made that Barbados has a very stable political and investment climate which should inspire confidence in its Diaspora.
The next Barbados Network Consultation will be in 2012 version with an emphasis on youth. I remembered the words of the first stanza of the inspirational song “The Greatest Love of All” – “I believe that children are our future; Teach them well and let them lead the way; Show them all the beauty they possess inside; Give them a sense of pride to make it easier; Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be!” The Barbados Network Consultation has recognised not only the power of the Diaspora but also the need for succession planning for our nation state.
The recovery and development of Barbados is of course paramount. If the quality of the presentations from the small sample of Diaspora delegates, who spoke at a Town Hall meeting styled session, is representative of the wider Diaspora population, there is a wealth of resources in the Diaspora which need to be leveraged for the benefit of us all. Other workshop sessions addressed Tourism Development and the Role of Overseas Barbadians; Philanthropy; Investment Opportunities; Cultural Industries; and Returning to the Rock.
Not withstanding the theme of the consultation, a few sparks flew as a result of two comments, the one from the Diaspora which described Barbados as having a “rude” culture, and the other an inspired retort that returning residents were very “patronising” to Barbadian residents. There was no time to do justice to this debate. Suffice it to say that the debate should take place and the issues resolved as we focus on “Strengthening the Bonds that Unite Us”.
I saw my own participation as an opportunity to share the innovation of the CBET Shepherding Model as necessary and sufficient for economic growth, one successful enterprise after another, not only in Barbados but beyond. In the context of the Diaspora, we must interest the entrepreneurs in the Diaspora to develop their business ideas in enterprises that are registered in Barbados; we must encourage them to strengthen their links with Barbados to share their expertise and experience, either virtually (using information and communications technology) or in person; and to invest in the Barbados Entrepreneurs’ Venture Capital Fund.
The registration of Diaspora Businesses in Barbados, even though the major production activity may not be done in Barbados, means that the Barbados GDP is given a boost, the net foreign exchange earnings increase especially in businesses which are intellectual property driven. Last week, I met a Barbadian couple resident in the US and they have a business, albeit in its infancy, in the US. They sell products and services in the US. They have a “DNA of an Elephant” enterprise which can be marketed all over the world, but their business is registered in Barbados and they are thinking of spending more time in Barbados where there is a greater quality of life (UNDP Human Development report). They are on the right track. Diaspora resources may also be engaged in expanding the distribution of products in the Diaspora countries.
The CBET Shepherding Model is focussed on the shepherding concept where we need shepherds and business advisors who are persons experienced and interested in business management. Shepherding mitigates the risk of business failure. Diaspora resources are encouraged to make themselves available to partner with the entrepreneurs of Barbadian registered business on a journey to sustainable business success.
The Government of Barbados has been very responsible in my view in supporting the concept of the Barbados Entrepreneurs’ Venture Capital Fund which consists of both Seed and Venture Capital components. It has capitalised the Quick Response Seed Fund which is a revolving and growth fund. The Government is the initial investor in the Quick Response Venture Capital Fund as has given the private sector, local and foreign, an incentive to invest in this fund. The Government incentive is a government guarantee on the principal sum invested. The Barbados Diaspora is invited to invest in this fund where the annual return on investment is expected to in excess of 15% per annum.
I beseech the Diaspora, individually and collectively wherever they are, to fear God and give Him glory by entering into a smart partnership with Barbadians as we strive to develop our island nation. The hour has come to “Strengthen the Bonds that Unite Us!”