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Championing Caribbean investors
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Championing Caribbean investors

Regional Investor of the year Award aims to recognize impact of local, foreign investment

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 21, 2015
January 21, 2015
Catherine Morris

In the drive to encourage investment in the Caribbean region and reach new markets, it is important not to overlook the contribution of established investors who are supporting local economies by creating jobs, developing new industry and encouraging growth. This is the message from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), which is keen to recognize these trailblazers and recently introduced a Regional Investor of the Year Award (RIYA).

Pictured: (large photo, from left) Christopher Lewis, then deputy chairman of Caribbean Export’s Board of Directors; Diomares Musa, corporate development vice president of ARS Humano of the Dominican Republic-the local investor of the YearAward and the overall Regional Investor of the year Award; Ronald Theodore, CAIPA president, and Fernando Guiterrez of The Financial Times Ltd. (Photo courtesy CEDA)

Pictured: (smaller photo) Chris McNair, manager of creative and innovation, CEDA. (Photo courtesy CEDA)

Teaming up with the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA), Caribbean Export invited all 19 member countries, including The Bahamas, to put forward their most inspiring investor success stories. The competition was officially launched in September 2013 and the response was encouraging, according to Chris McNair, manager of creativity and innovation at Caribbean Export. “The response was fantastic,” he says, adding that the organization received 34 applications from 10 Caribbean territories. “We were overwhelmed by the number of entries. It was very successful.”

ARS Humano –a private health insurance company based in the Dominican Republic–was crowned the overall winner at a ceremony held in Belize in November. At press time, the organizers were looking ahead to 2014’s award and eager to build on the momentum of the inaugural event.

Inspiring innovation
RIYA, which is funded by the European Union’s Regional Private Sector Development Programme, incorporates four awards: Local Investor of the Year, Foreign Investor of the Year, Overall Winner and Special Award Winner. The aim of the latter category is not just to reward investment, but also to recognize and promote specific sectors and industries.

Caribbean Export and CAIPA are using the initiative to highlight such areas of strategic importance as innovation and creativity, and green energy. “It is always good when we can highlight some of the opportunities that the green economy presents,” McNair says. In the future, CAIPA president Ronald Theodore says the scope of the Special Award can be broadened to recognize areas that need more exposure, such as the work of young entrepreneurs.

Cayman Enterprise City won the inaugural Special Award in 2013 for its innovation in creating and establishing a technology based Special Economic Zone to attract IT industries to the island.

Innovation is a crucial component of Caribbean Export and CAIPA’s wider strategy as the investment bodies believe that a diversified economic model gives rise to a more sustainable economy, with room for growth. “There needs to be an emphasis placed on developing new, innovative products that will attract new investors and new customers,” says McNair. “One of the things you hear about investment is that foreign direct investment brings a certain level of capacity and know-how, but the idea is to create linkages at a national level. We are hoping firms grow to the level where they are more globally competitive and are influenced by investment in innovation.”

Strategic partners
RIYA winners are chosen by an evaluation committee consisting of senior officials from leading Caribbean investment bodies, such as the CARIFORUM Directorate in the CARIFORUM Secretariat and Regional Investment Promotion Steering Committee for CARIFORUM.

Theodore says the evaluation committee considers many factors when choosing its winners, looking at the number of jobs created, the skill levels of those jobs, the sustainability of the investment and the impact that the investment is making, as well as corporate social responsibility factors.

“These are companies that have taken a risk on the Caribbean and succeeded,” says McNair of the award winners. “You have some really good companies doing really good things.” The winning companies in 2013, for example, invested a total of $1.6 billion in the region over a five-year period and boosted jobs by 30 per cent during the 2008-12 period. “These companies have an impact that is sustainable at the national level. They are a true partner to the development process of the country they are in. They are committed to the country’s development and are not just there to make a buck. It goes beyond making a profit. It is about being a part of the community and supporting the growth of that community.”

According to McNair, successful applicants are those that can demonstrate that they are actively contributing to their host country and that they are there to stay. “One of the criteria we look at is longevity,” he says. “We want them to have a strategic partnership with the country and a long-term strategy.”

Promoting regional investment
Caribbean Export hopes other investors will follow the lead of these pioneering award winners and intends to use RIYA as a key part of its promotional toolkit.

“Promotional missions are very important for us,” says McNair. “When trying to sell our destination, it is always good to have people who can testify—investors who are part of the environment here. You can then highlight those success stories and use that person as a voice to reach the other investor communities you are targeting. We are trying to promote the region as somewhere you can come and have a positive return on your investment.”

As the award scheme grows, McNair would like to see its winners acting as advocates for the Caribbean. “One of the things we want to do is develop some really unique content on these companies and then use that in the different communication channels to target the kind of investor we are looking for.”

It is not just Caribbean Export and CAIPA that stand to benefit from these efforts, however. The winning firms also reap the rewards of increased visibility. “It allows them to get that exposure,” says Theodore. “They get promotion for their own businesses and they are included in investment missions where they can look for opportunities in their own right. It is a win-win situation for both parties.”

Moreover, RIYA is not just a promotional vehicle, says Theodore; it is also a means of connecting with investors in the region, gathering their feedback and hearing their concerns. He believes it is vital to recognize the efforts of established companies and nurture their growth, saying: “When you are going out and trying to get new investors, it is always good to recognize those that you already have. You want to make sure your investors are satisfied. We learn from their experience and try to improve the investment environment.

“This is what we are stressing to all investment promotion agencies: it is not just about getting the investors in–you need to keep in touch with them to allow them to expand their operations. You need to make sure their needs are met to encourage them to hire more.”

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