COVID-19 has forced many societal changes and has accelerated the need for inclusive and sustainable digital transformation within the Caribbean.
Businesses, specifically micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who are critical to the socio-economic growth of the region have been hit hard by the pandemic and require support to transform their operations in order to recover and grow.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has launched a grant programme for MSMEs operating in Antigua and Barbuda, whose owners are desirous of transitioning their businesses to an online or digital model and providing safe deliveries. This is programme is being implemented in collaboration with the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, the United Nations Office for South-South Corporation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The initiative, which is a part of the “Strengthening National Health Capacities and Reducing Negative Socio-economic Impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis in Antigua and Barbuda” is providing up to XCD 10,000 to MSMEs in the agriculture (agribusiness, farming, fishery, and livestock), manufacturing, hospitality (events and catering/food and beverage), health (services and health wellness) and tourism sectors to conduct activities such as, but not limited to developing or subscribing to an e-commerce website, purchasing a domain name and web hosting platform for an e-commerce website and facilitating online merchant payment arrangement with a financial institution.
Speaking on the importance of the programme, Amb. Aubrey Webson, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Nations for Antigua and Barbuda noted “This project once again showed the importance of the South-South corporation and the full engagement of the UN System. Thanks to the Government of India and UNDP for responding to my request to repurpose the funds to support the effort of the recovery and place the youth in economic activities and provide equipment and material for the health response to the pandemic.”
He went on to say that “We began this project a year ago, firstly with an urgent response to the health challenge of COVID-19 by collaborating with UNDP and the Government of India through the South-South corporation project by reshaping this response to meet both the health and recovery challenges. The UNDP responded speedily by assisting us in purchasing equipment and health supplies for the hospital. Once the health challenge was addressed, we turned our attention to supporting individuals, especially the youth, in the recovery process. The project also reached out and provided small grants to some displaced workers.”
After a stringent selection process, the following MSME’s were awarded grants to transition their businesses to thrive in the digital landscape:
- Crepe It Antigua
- The Paddling Duck
- Ruth’s Place
- Cheretta’s Cakes and Pastries
- Glazed Bakery and Confectionary
- KN Consulting
- Pillars Naturals
- Wallings Nature Reserve
- Ray of Sunshine Enterprise
- Kelsick Construction
- D&M Power Centre Tool Rental and Repairs
- Sarafina’s Savoury Caribbean Puddings
- Hall Valley Farm
- Red Square Sweat Shop
- Level 7 Enterprises
- 108 Direct
- Guilty Consumption
- Flower World Ltd
- Balloons and Bows Plus
- Caribbean Holiday Apartments
- The LocaL App Consultancy
- Ishwari – Experience India
Valerie Cliff, Resident Representative, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, noted “MSMEs have made significant contributions to Antigua and Barbuda’s socio-economic growth, and we recognize that the pandemic has critically impacted these businesses and amplified their unique vulnerabilities. Through programmes such as this one, UNDP will continue to advance MSME recovery and champion digital transformation in the region. We wish the grant awardees the very best and look forward to supporting their continued growth and development.”
At this time when exogenous threats like COVID-19 and natural disasters are impacting the region, it is vital that developmental efforts are continued to reinforce the need for regional resilience and building forward better. This programme is part of the work of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in its commitment to promoting economic diversification, job creation and resilience with the “Blue Economy for Green Islands” vision.
As the Caribbean continues to seek solutions to support traditionally vulnerable groups, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in partnership with governments and stakeholders, remains dedicated to the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region and building resilient communities that can withstand shocks and crises through targeted projects and programmes.
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