The 2020 Highway
The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) has set the goal of making Barbados the no.1 entrepreneurial hub by 2020. The BEF views its role as preparing the field “to foster a holistic approach to entrepreneurship in Barbados that will enable the achievement of the island’s potential as a global business hub.
Effective change requires proper explanation of the new destination to generate excitement in those who need to embrace the change. They must see the target, identify with the goal and work backwards, understanding what must be done today to achieve the result tomorrow. The BEF is framing the structure of 2020 today so that Barbados may chart the path to achieving the target. The five pillars – finance, government policy, business facilitation, education and mentorship must be driven deep to form a solid foundation. The BEF is outlining the ideals with the help of international experts – what Barbados as its best looks like. Answers must be sought to the questions: “Which territories perform best in specific areas?” and “Where is Barbados today relative to the best practice?” This will identify gaps that need to be filled. Targets will be set for the next 12 months. A clear set of measures is being generated and a road map will be rolled out in the next three months for Barbados. BEF Chairman Mr. Peter Boos sat down with the Barbados Business Catalyst to discuss the road to 2020.
Barbados Business Catalyst: What in your view is the role of an entrepreneur in the economic development of Barbados?
Peter Boos: There must be much more involvement of Barbadians of every ilk in the ownership of businesses if the country is to attain sustainable economic development. There is a need to engage in global business. Barbados cannot be myopic and focus only on the small local market.
The practice of law as a career cannot be sustainable if lawyers confine their focus to Barbados only. Lawyers must develop niche skills and get involved in international firms. They must get involved in global business, in global transactions. They must develop specialties. Legal outsourcing has tremendous potential and generates exports of legal services.
There is much potential in the export of education services because of the brand associated with the country. If properly marketed, education service exports can generate substantial income for the country as many persons would venture to study in Barbados because of its reputation and brand. “Make it easy to do business! Encourage as many start-ups as possible.” These are the suggestions of the Kaufmann Foundation.
BBC: What are some of the initiatives that are necessary to promote and drive start-up enterprises?
PB: Make access to finance easy for companies. In addition, access to good, qualified mentors is also necessary. The BEF is setting up an online facility for entrepreneurs to connect with capable mentors. Local entrepreneurs will be able to locate entrepreneurs with experience in their field of interest and learn from them.
BBC: Research has suggested the following as critical success factors to entrepreneurial development:
• An explicit policy mandating and enabling youth entrepreneurship education
• School teachers as implementers, integrating entrepreneurship into the core subjects
• Strong governmental support at the highest levels
• Close partnerships with multiple stakeholders
• A dedicated national funding source
What are your thoughts on these and what is your assessment on the existence of such factors here in Barbados?
PB: One of the biggest concerns that face the Barbadian economy is a lack of foreign exchange. Much of the foreign policy of the country is to protect the foreign exchange. Government must create the enabling environment for entrepreneurship.
Having the vision of Barbados as the no.1 entrepreneurial hub by 2020 enshrined in Protocol VI is a step in the right direction. However, processes and procedures that promote business facilitation must be embraced by the civil service. It cannot take exorbitant lengths of time to have an application approved by the Town and Country Development Planning Office. The process of establishing a business or having a driver’s licence approved must not impede the conduct of business.
The BEF has been promoting the education component of entrepreneurship. The Foundation recognises that a culture of entrepreneurship must be developed in the youth if the vision is going to be achieved. Under the Education Pillar, it seeks to “challenge the aspirations of young people in Barbados”; “challenge the impression of entrepreneurs among young people”; and “bring entrepreneurs out from behind closed doors”.
BBC: What are some of the things you have identified that keep potential entrepreneurs from succeeding and fulfilling their potential?
PB: The size of the civil service in Barbados is too large. This creates a strain on the funds available for business. In addition, it results in a lengthy bureaucratic process. Business facilitation processes that are managed by agencies within the civil service are counter-productive, creating substantial delays for entrepreneurs.
Lack of adequate mentorship is also a challenge for local entrepreneurs. Many persons entering into business may be skilled and have various competencies but are not properly equipped to run their own businesses. They do not enjoy networking advantages.
Access to mentors will help these persons to make decisions that are based on the experiences of established and thriving businesses.
BBC: Elaborate on your vision of Barbados in 2020. What does the no. 1 Entrepreneurial hub look like? What is at the core?
PB: By 2020, per capita GDP will have doubled, going from U $13,000 to US $26,000. Barbados will be ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) amongst the top 20 of the world’s most competitive countries – up from 43rd currently. The number of global companies, i.e those with an annual turnover of at least US$50 million, with headquarters in Barbados will have grown to at least 50 companies. These companies will deliver annual revenue of at least $5 billion. Barbados will register an increase in the WEF Productivity Index to 30th globally and will place enterprise at the heart of education development.
In 2020, Barbados will be seen as the “entrepreneur’s island”.Any entrepreneur should find it a great experience to set up a business in Barbados. All the resources are here. There is clarity, there is transparency, the infrastructure works and there is a much bigger bandwidth in the country.
To this end, international entrepreneurs complementary with Barbadian entrepreneurs should be pursued strategically and invited to set up in Barbados.
BBC: Two years into the BEF’s efforts to create the environment favourable to entrepreneurial development, are you satisfied that the vision has been sufficiently embraced?
PB: Yes and no. Much lobbying has been carried out by the BEF among the stakeholders. As a result, the vision of Barbados as the no. 1 entrepreneurial hub by 2020 has been enshrined in Protocol VI. While this is good, there has not yet been universal acceptance by all stakeholders across Barbados. Furthermore, there are severe resource constraints within the BEF, both in terms of finances and people.
The Foundation has only one full-time employee and is dependent on time and effort of volunteers. It is estimated that approximately Bds$5 million of time has been volunteered in 2011.
There have been a number of successful entrepreneurs across Barbados who believe that the BEF has a difficult challenge ahead. Persons with much to contribute have grave reservations because of Government and private sector inertia among other reasons and, as a result, are reluctant to commit to the vision.
BBC: What is your assessment of the pace at which Barbados is moving towards the attainment of this goal of being the no. 1 entrepreneurial hub?
PB: The vision can still be achieved but it requires great leadership. 2020 was strategically chosen because it gives the country sufficient time to achieve the targets without allowing the country to lapse into a period of complacency because it is too long.
Government exerts tremendous influence in the economy and will need to be a key player in the realisation of the vision. If Government isn’t participating sufficiently in areas such as policy and business facilitation, it will be practically impossible for the vision to be realised.
Barbados cannot afford to project itself as the greatest place to conduct business and when foreign investors are invited here, the reality is not what is promised. Government departments and service providers must offer the most efficient services possible that investors would not turn away and look to other economies.
Read more articles in the latest edition of the Barbados Business Catalyst
Wednesday, July 18, 2012