“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
A healthy dialogue resulted from my recent column entitled “HOW CAN THE USVI ENERGIZE CARICOM?”
As a follow-up, I thought I would engage in lateral thinking and adopt a solution-oriented approach to the challenge: “Whither CARICOM (Caribbean Community) in the post COVID-19 dispensation?”
How can CARICOM pivot, using its own resources and talents, and how can we leverage the potential of USVI/CARICOM partnerships to our mutual benefit?
While there are real and meaningful examples of cooperation between the U.S. and the Caribbean, we are in need of a reignited Third Border Initiative to solidify ties with our neighbors, which include our Caribbean cousins in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I understand U.S. President Joe Biden is a frequent visitor. In keeping with the ideals of inclusiveness, let us not overlook Puerto Rico, the largest U.S. territory by population with approximately 3 million residents, and another example of a multicultural, multilingual Caribbean destination.
Here are some thoughts on the way forward.
Step 1 – Structure. Register a legal Trust between CARICOM and the USVI, the beneficiaries of which are the people of the Caribbean, including U.S. Virgin Islanders. The value proposition of this Trust would be to mobilize the strengths of each entity and positively exploit synergies between them to awaken dormant business opportunities for the mutual benefit of the people of the Caribbean and its Diaspora.
Step 2 – Financial security. Mount a quick response (seed, equity, working capital) profitable growth Fund (capitalized by investors and donors) under the Trust to provide financial security for startup business enterprises and Fund investors. The efficient performance of this growth fund would facilitate (1) initial startup capital seamlessly rolled into equity; (2) buy-back of the Fund’s equity by startups to regain 100 percent ownership of their businesses as soon as cashflow permits; (3) short-term financing collateralized by marketing contracts; (4) investor return on financial investment; (5) the justification of the donors’ corporate social responsibility outlay; and (6) a sustainable funding source for posterity. Including highly skilled Diaspora professionals to participate in and fund this initiative would be icing on the cake.
Step 3 – Marketing. One of the first objectives of a startup enterprise is to establish markets for its products and services, close sales and show profitability. Public relations, marketing and media savvy aimed at the generation of revenue will enable the initiative to hit the ground running.
Step 4 – Operations. Business opportunities of mutual interest include education, training, tourism, renewable energy, food and beverage, cricket, oil refining, yachting, eco-tourism, and culture. The further challenge is to reverse the global startup business failure rate, estimated to be 90 percent in the first five years, to the converse – a 90 percent success rate.
Step 5 – People development. The people of the Caribbean are multitalented. We must compile an inventory of these talents and develop them to the fullest. We should not only convert them into business opportunities but, through their success, inspire generations yet to come.
Yesterday marked the end of the celebration of Black History month in the United States for 2021. The Caribbean has played an indelible role in this history, so let’s leverage the creative genius of our people to act on these five or other steps – on a bilateral or multilateral basis – rather than pontificate into oblivion.
Who is ready to knock?
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns may be found at nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)