Youth businesses get CDB priority treatment

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Cardell Ferguson in pink jacket and blue dress speaking with Daniel Best in grey suit and purple shirt

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted social and economic life in 2020, the matter of high youth unemployment was identified by Governments and development agencies in the Region as a destabilising factor impacting Caribbean economies which required urgent attention.

At the 2016 Annual News Conference, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Warren Smith said unemployment generally remained a concern in most economies, sharing that 2015 research indicated youth unemployment figures in the Caribbean were among the highest in the world.

In its effort to combat the growing problem and to provide key support for young people seeking entrepreneurship as a viable option, CDB, through its Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSME) Unit, has placed almost US$290, 000 at the disposal of youth business programmes in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St. Lucia, Jamaica and Dominica.

Cardell Fergusson, general manager of the Barbados Youth Business Trust (BYBT), explained some of the technical components of the programme titled Strengthening the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Caribbean Youth.

Those components of the pilot programme include the training of trainers in the ‘Launch Your Business Curriculum’, developed in association with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). That curriculum targets youth who have been in business for less than three years.

We also look at the networks they have and help them to build out their businesses. We also examine the components of the businesses and seek to get them to structure those components, assist them in building a business model utilising the theories of effectuation, lean start-up and design thinking,” the BYBT executive pointed out.

She added: “One of the most important parts of this programme is the focus on the process of creative problem solving.”

So far, 470 young entrepreneurs (210 males and 260 females) engaged in a wide cross-section of business ventures have benefited from the CDB-funded programme in the beneficiary countries, where youth unemployment is a significant concern”. With donor support for many programmes increasingly difficult to secure, she said: “We were able to create a curriculum for the entrepreneurs but that was from another project which concluded and we did not have a way to extend it throughout the region.

When CDB expressed interest in supporting us in that, it became a life line for us because we wanted to ensure that we had some synergies among the programmes.  This Strengthening the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Caribbean Youth project has given us the opportunity to build out that support we are offering and it came at a time when we needed it most.

Launched in February 2019, the project is expected to be conclude in February 2021. However, the BYBT expects there may be an extension granted because of interruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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