“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Matthew 11:15
On November 21, Zimbabwean billionaire businessman and philanthropist Strive Masiyiwa delivered the Barbados Central Bank’s 47th Sir Winston Scott annual memorial lecture. It has been reported that he believes Barbados can lead the region in creating a venture capital ecosystem to help grow entrepreneurship.
Masiyiwa cautioned Barbados not to reinvent the wheel but rather to learn from other environments to solve a very important problem and to help to create jobs for our people.
In my column of November 21, 2022, I proposed that “Maybe Barbados can lead the way again (as it did in the Barbados Programme of Action at the 1994 UN SIDS Conference) by establishing an innovative SIDS startup business ecosystem which will constitute the SIDS business health care system and bring the Enterprise Development sector to life.”
This ecosystem would be the culmination of the work done over almost three decades through the Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust (CBET).
The objectives of the SIDS ecosystem are to: (1) mobilize the plethora of “DNA of an Elephant” ideas in the Caribbean to create jobs; (2) introduce the shepherding concept to minimize the risk of business failure; (3) resuscitate the incentives to the private sector which is already part of the legacy of the late Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson and delineated in his 2008 budget speech; (4) consolidate a SIDS equity fund to minimize the financial risk of the ecosystem; (5) capitalize startups by offering startup shares to the equity fund to minimize financial delays in getting the startups off the ground; (6) grow startups aggressively with the help of shepherds and an enabling environment; (7) design an exit strategy for the fund so that entrepreneurs reclaim 100 percent ownership as soon as cash flows permit; and (8) market the concept aggressively throughout the SIDS community.
It was also reported that Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) Cleviston Haynes recognized the benefit of equity over loans and the need to create an enabling environment in which emerging entities can prosper.
I recall that approximately 15 to 20 years ago, the Central Bank established the Barbados Investment Fund.
At the risk of sounding immodest might I suggest that this concept be revisited by the Bank and the experience gained by CBET over the past 25 years years (along with the recent stimulus from Strive Masiyiwa that Barbados should lead the region by creating a venture capital ecosystem to help grow entrepreneurship), should be integrated in this new ecosystem thrust over the SIDS development domain.
I would respectfully suggest that in the SIDS environment well-meaning venture capitalists may have unwittingly earned the title of vulture capitalists because the care needed to nurture startups and create jobs may have given way to a more a profit-making objective.
The challenge is to create a seed/equity/working capital fund stimulated by a venture capital environment but regulated by the Central Bank.
The answers have been indigenous to the Caribbean for quite some time, but it’s great to see once again an international businessman endorse what we already know. I hope our decision makers were listening.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com).