UNDP, CDB partner to strengthen MSMEs
Businesses have been forced into sudden changes in their operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For tourism related micro, small, medium sized enterprises (MSME), however, that pivot has been particularly challenging.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean has collaborated with the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) MSME Unit, to provide technical and financial support through its Future-Tourism: Rethinking Tourism and MSMEs in Times of COVID-19 project, targeting these enterprises for assistance.
The new partnership not only seeks to contribute to the hastening of economic recovery and the sustainable development of the region’s tourism sector by financially supporting the digitisation of the business processes and value chains of MSMEs, but also aims to help governments identify and implement tourism revitalisation strategies.
Miguel Guirao, project coordinator at the UNDP Barbados and Eastern Caribbean’s office, highlighted the “crippling effect” which the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tourism and the economies of the region.
He explained that Future-Tourism project which received US$383,400 in funding from CDB, was developed out of a need to adapt to the new post COVID-19 environment and to build more resilient sectors on which regional economies can be anchored and respond to exogenous shocks.
Guirao, who welcomed the collaboration, stated: “For us at UNDP, during the initial stages of this project design, CDB was one of the key strategic partners that we thought it will be beneficial to engage as one of the leading institutions supporting MSME development in the region.
“Therefore, developing this partnership was key for UNDP and based on the already existing strong collaboration between the two organisations, it was a natural fit that directly benefitted almost 400 MSMEs through the training and the mentoring sessions.”
Asked why UNDP regarded the push to digitise the operations of tourism based MSMEs as so critical at this time, he said the need was immense.
“Estimations are that COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by at least ten years and in regions like the Caribbean, many businesses were not ready for this sudden change.
“Against this background, the need to prioritise digital transformation was heightened with a focus on those whose livelihoods that have been impacted the most due to the pandemic,” he assessed.
Moreover, Guirao outlined that this approach was in line with the UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 where the focus is on eradicating poverty, accelerating structural transformation and building resilience to shocks and crises like the COVID-19 pandemic through strategic innovation, digitalisation and financing development.
In seeking to achieve the goals of its strategic plan, the UNDP official stressed the importance of partnerships with the CDB in strengthen the capacity of businesses across the Caribbean to be resilient.
He asserted: “The support to MSMEs that the CDB is leading in the Caribbean is key for the recovery and adaptation of MSMEs to the current scenario created by the pandemic.”
The Future Tourism Project is still ongoing and is to be delivered in three components which include the development of e-material for presentations and guidelines on digital technology, financial planning and marketing. The other two components are training of the trainers and the provision of grants to eligible beneficiaries.