Entrepreneurship head start for young Haitians
Since becoming a member of the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) borrowing member countries (BMCs) in 2007, the northern Caribbean nation of Haiti has received special attention from the regional development financial institution.
Faced with several socio-economic and development challenges, Haiti’s susceptibility to natural disasters has also made it a focal point for development assistance from the CDB.
In line with this multifaceted support, the Bank’s MSME Unit is backing a targeted Pilot Youth Entrepreneurship Education and Training Programme in the French-speaking nation.
The project was launched by CDB in December 2021, in partnership with project coordinators Société Financière Haïtienne de Développement (SOFIHDES), a development finance institution, and the L’Institut National de Formation Professionnelle (INFP), which is a Department of Haiti’s Ministry of Education. The INFP was specially created to promote technical and vocational training in schools.
With its population of almost 11 million, Haiti, like most countries in the Caribbean, is impacted by a high level of youth unemployment. More than half of all young women there are unemployed, while about 40 per cent of young men are without jobs.
In an attempt to better the livelihoods and employment opportunities of youth through entrepreneurship, CDB’s MSME Unit is partnering with SOFIHDES and INFP to fund training and mentorship for 150 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 to either start or build out their businesses.
Moreover, there will be additional access to small grants of up to US$5,000 for at least 50 beneficiaries.
Young people from Port-au-Prince Gonaives, Cap Haitien, Mirebalais, and Jérémie, who are expected to complete or have recently completed technical training and have started a business, have been targeted for the pilot project.
Overall, CDB has approved US$611,000 for the project which will also include mentorship, assistance in the development of business plans, which will then facilitate financing for grants and loans through SOFIHDES and institutions that provide funding to micro enterprises.
Participants will also be provided with training in leadership, marketing, market segmentation and positioning, product distribution, as well as basic accounting and record keeping.
SOFIHDES is an experienced and established organisation that has provided training to more than 3 500 businesses and professionals in Haiti. It conceptualised the project and approached the Barbados-based CDB to fund the expansive youth-targeted project.
Director of Services of the Port-au-Prince based SOFIHDES, Ipena Lucien is one of the driving forces behind the programme. And though in the very early stages of the project roll out, participants are already appreciating the value of the training being provided.
From the first workshop Johnny Iliama, an iron worker, who graduated from the Centre Professionnel de St Martin in 2021, described the sessions as an opportunity to receive training for free that was also practical.
“I will take the example of the training on time management and self-esteem. I learned a lot and I want I say thank you to INFP, SOFIHDES and CDB,” he stated.
Petersly Jean-Michel, a young man, who is about to graduate from the Centre Pilot Industrial in maintenance mechanics observed: “With self-esteem training, I now understand how to value myself and believe in my abilities. I learned a lot about time and team management, and I am already thinking about how to put the concepts learned into practice.
“I had no knowledge of accounting, and I am trying to see how to apply what I have just learned. I think I can start my business plan, but I will need support to get there.”
Female participant Ghinlyr Francesca Morancy, who will be graduating from the Centre Pilote in Building Construction, remarked: I think it's a good workshop. The first three days of training helped me a lot. The self-esteem training allowed me to do some introspection, which I was not used to doing. The training in time management will allow me to follow and respect the work plans that I establish. I think I could, after taking the accounting training, better manage my expenses.”
Commenting on the initiative, Michel Thomas, Operations Officer with the CDB, pointed out: “It is envisioned that this Project will create employment opportunities, through entrepreneurial ventures, for the beneficiary young persons. It is aligned with CDB’s continued efforts to pursue interventions aimed at alleviating the high levels of youth unemployment in Haiti.”