Budding Haitian youth businesses get targeted boost
A pilot youth business project in Haiti, backed by the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Business Unit, is being heralded as innovative and exactly the type of direct assistance that the French-speaking Caribbean nation needs.
The assessment is that of Ipena Lucien, coordinator of the Youth Entrepreneurship Education and Training Programme, the latest business development initiative under the aegis of the Bank’s Caribbean Technical Consultancy Services (CTCS).
CTCS is the primary mechanism for mobilising knowledge and skills from multiple stakeholders, including regional and national institutions that provide technical assistance and financing to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to support enterprise development in CDB’s borrowing member countries.
This pilot, an agreement for which was signed in December 2021, has been underwritten with USD610 000 in support from CDB. It targets 150 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30, providing them with training and mentorship, and most important, successful participants will each receive a USD5,000 grant to support their fledgling enterprises.
Praising the efforts of the regional development finance institution, Lucien said projects such as this one provides hope for Haitians. She lamented, often times Haitians believe they are forgotten by some international institutions due to the economic and security challenges confronting the Caribbean Community member.
“Despite the security and social situation, it is still very important to have institutions like the CDB involved because it is really making a great difference in our lives.
“When we look at this pilot programme, it is unique because we are doing it in partnership with INFP (Institut National de Formation Professionnelle) and we are targeting a group that is really often not considered,” the coordinator outlined.
Offering greater details of the project’s progress so far, Lucien disclosed that five cohorts from the cities of Port-au-Prince, Carrefour in the west, Gonaives in the centre of the island, Cap Haitien in the north, Jérémie in the south, and Mirebalais, situated north of the Haitian capital have participated in group training.
The first component of the project comprises several entrepreneurial group training workshops. The second involves coaching the young people through one-on-one mentorship and advice on finalising their business plans.
Following successful completion of this phase, ten from each cohort identified through a selection process will be provided with USD5,000 grants to support their enterprises.
Lucien outlined how the young people were chosen for the programme, noting the role played by INFP. That government institution is responsible for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Haiti. It required those interested in joining the project to have either completed some TVET certification within one year of the start of the pilot and had already established their businesses. The other avenue to access the programme was for final year students in a professional institution, with an academic score of 75 percent or higher.
According to Lucien: “The first workshop was done face-to-face in Port-au-Prince when we first started but all the others were conducted online. Conducting the training online allowed us to mitigate the sanitary conditions due to the pandemic and security issues that we have been facing for quite some time. In addition, travelling in certain areas is very risky, and so, we did all that training via the Zoom platform.”
Training for participants lasted 18 to 20 days of half-day sessions and Lucien described the willingness and commitment of the young Haitians to see the process through to the end as “impressive”.
Even more compelling was the formation of partnerships among some participants with the aim of creating stronger enterprises.
Among the types of small and micro enterprises of participants in the pilot include plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, electronics, automobile parts sales, among others.
Lucien added: “What is most important about this programme is the requirement of all the businesses to be legally registered and have a physical place of operation.
“The fact that we are requiring these businesses to register and be in the formal sector means those micro enterprises increase their eligibility to access funding from banks and other institutions. This is something we want to see more of.”