On Wednesday, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) took an important step towards placing its resources at the disposal of small businesses and sister business support organisations, staging of a forum designed to determine how the chamber can work with them to determine their needs and how those can be satisfied.
The ability of the GCCI to reach out to deficient sectors derives from the significant steps it has taken in enhancing its profile at the domestic and external levels as an effective business support organisation, securing the attention of prominent regional and international organisations and, more recently, partnering with those organisations in the execution of projects designed to realise broader business growth in the country. Indeed, the GCCI has already secured a critical partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank aimed at enhancing the viability of local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS).
A three-year collaborative effort with the CDB, will enable the GCCI to provide, through the CTCS network, short-term consultancy services to organisations, individuals, groups and business enterprises designed to provide training through workshops and seminars to address common MSME problems and technical needs; provide resource persons to help enterprises respond to particular administrative and operational challenges; offer training attachments that focus on the transfer of good practice, managerial and technical skills to MSMEs needing to increase their efficiency, improve product and service quality and enhance their product capabilities; provide ongoing online consultancies aimed at giving expert advice to MSME owners and practitioners who benefited from previous CTCS Network interventions and facilitating access to online CTCS Network technical publications including technical guidelines and data relevant to MSMEs areas of business focus.
In the first instance the GCCI will work with 17 private sector organisations (the numbers are subject to adjustment) in order to enhance their managerial, technical and operational capabilities.
Last Wednesday’s meeting was attended by representatives of the art and craft, apiculture and agro-processing sectors as well as the Small Business Bureau though, to the stated disappointment of the organisers the Linden Chamber of Commerce was the only regional chamber present. GCCI executive member Lance Hinds had told this newspaper during an earlier conversation that the chamber was particularly keen on deploying the resources that it had secured through its relationship with the CDB in an effort to help shore up the regional chambers across the country. Accordingly, he was disappointed at the low level of response to the Georgetown Chambers’ invitations to last Wednesday’s meeting.
At the meeting Hinds and Chamber President Vishnu Doerga outlined the mechanics of the relationship between the GCCI and the CDB following which a lively discussion ensued on ways in which the Georgetown Chamber can work with other individual businesses, business groups and business support organizations to maximize the support being received from the CDB. Hinds told the gathering that the chamber had decided that engaging the regional chambers and other business support groups was the most effective way of determining their needs and providing effective responses.
What the ensuing deliberations made clear was the fact that a number of the business support groups, particularly those representing MSMEs were seriously under-resourced and therefore unable to lend effective support to enterprises within the group. Not least amongst their challenges are a lack of physical facilities for the creation of effective organisations and, perhaps above all else, few resources with which to run their organisations. Lively and revealing discussions were held on the challenges being faced by the Linden Chamber of Commerce in seeking to provide meaningful and effective support for businesses in the region and the need to provide effective responses to the pressures being faced by small and emerging sectors including art and craft, music, apiculture and agro-processing, among others.
The presence of representatives from the various sectors at Wednesday’s meeting allowed the GCCKI to outline its CDB-supported project titled ‘Improving Competitiveness in Guyana and Strengthening of SMEs to Increase Non Traditional Exports.’ Aimed directly at seeking to reduce and eventually remove some of the critical weaknesses facing local MSMEs the planned outcomes of the project are to improve export product quality and capacity to fulfil orders and to equip businesses with industry knowledge of international marketing opportunities in the European Union, CariForum and French Caribbean Outermost Regions (FCOR).
The project will, among other things, engage an arts and craft sector consultant to assess the supply capacity and export-readiness of enterprises while conducting market research to identify market opportunities in the EU, CariForum and elsewhere and prepare the arts and craft component of a three-year export development strategy and action plan reflective of the consensus and needs of the stakeholders.
In the agro-processing sector the project will engage production and marketing consultants to assess the supply capacity and export readiness of enterprises. Additionally, the project will facilitate market research to identify specific regional and extra-regional market opportunities. Similar services will be provided to the country’s music industry.
Three sensitization workshops will be conducted in the arts and craft, agro-processing and music sectors to examine trade opportunities and to discuss the components of draft three-year export development strategies for the respective sectors.
Funding provided by the CDB for the project will also be used to “deliver gender-sensitive, hands-on training, technical support and other forms of technical assistance” and in the case of the music industry to “engage a legal consultant to prepare and register articles of association to incorporate the Guyana Music Network (GMN) as a limited liability company.”
At last Wednesday’s meeting business support groups were mandated by the chamber to provide structured documentation outlining their particular needs in order that these can be factored into the initiative.