GO-Invest: Meeting the challenges of export promotion and facilitation in Guyana

The Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), an agency of the Ministry of Business, is vested with a dynamic role in the State’s drive for economic diversification. The mandate of the Agency in this regard is two-fold, investment facilitation and export promotion. Over the last few years, a number of initiatives have been undertaken to strengthen the mode of operation of the Agency, in terms of standardization of processes, putting systems in place to ensure measured deliverables and elevating the level of inter-agency collaboration to enable efficient service.

The challenges in increasing the exports of local products are neither new nor few and include: inadequate certification processes for local products to meet export market requirements; difficulties with transportation logistics and limited or costly shipping options; non-tariff trade barriers; and the high costs of production resulting in uncompetitive pricing.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, a number of local companies have been able to effectively penetrate export markets by capitalizing on novel opportunities. This, however, requires significant expenditure to increase capacity, implement and continuously operate international certification processes such as ISO and HACCP, and streamline logistics and advertising. For most start-ups and small firms, this remains a major challenge.

GO-Invest recognizes that institutional capacity challenges require a holistic but incrementally applied approach. In this vein, The National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) project, currently being implemented by the Ministry of Business, addresses the need for Guyanese exporters to meet international certification and other requirements. This project, funded by a US$9 million Inter-American Development Bank loan, is aimed at, among other things, augmenting diversification of exports and strengthening competitiveness. The Project includes an assessment of the structure and capacity of both GO-Invest and the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) in order to design and implement a National Export and Investment Promotion Strategy as well as to improve the national quality infrastructure. Implementation of the project will improve Guyana’s ability to access regional and global value chains through capacity building of local businesses to meet the technical requirements of importing countries, promoting exports, and attracting foreign direct investment particularly in exporting sectors.

GO-Invest works closely with exporters and potential exporters in a number of ways in order to help them promote their products. Under the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS), the Agency has been promoting access to European Union markets by established businesses. DAGS is a reimbursement grant-funding facility designed to provide financial assistance for the growth of participating businesses that have strong export potential and readiness. Earlier this year GO-Invest, in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), held a workshop in Georgetown to sensitize local businesses to the opportunities under DAGS and the process to access the facility. This session was attended by representatives from 66 interested entities and has so far yielded 11 applications.

WE-Xport is another facility in which GO-Invest is integrally involved through collaboration with CEDA, and which focuses on promoting female entrepreneurship by providing mentorship and imparting critical skills such as grant proposal writing and market research, so that female-owned firms can begin exporting or increase their levels of exports. Of the six female applicants who completed CEDA’s Diagnostic Tool Assessment, only one applicant was selected to benefit from WE-Xport’s assistance, pointing to the need for more work to be done in the area of capacity development. Over the years, GO-Invest has spearheaded participation in a number of local and foreign trade expositions as a means of providing optimum exposure for local goods and services. Recently, the Agency’s participation has been more measured and targeted, with greater focus on the needs and demands of specific markets. More emphasis is now placed on facilitating business to business meetings (between local suppliers and potential overseas buyers) during trade shows and expositions rather than simply displaying products.

The sustainable development of the Guyanese economy demands economic diversification actions and necessitates accessing new markets for non-traditional and value-added products.

The Ministry of Business’ Strategic Plan 2016-2020 also identifies the promotion of non-traditional exports as a means of reducing Guyana’s dependence on exports of gold, bauxite, sugar and rice as one of its objectives. GO-Invest continues to work assiduously to increase and improve its export trade facilitation initiatives for the purpose of export diversification and expansion of Guyana’s manufacturing, forestry, tourism and agricultural sectors.

There have been a few success stories so far, however GO-Invest recognises that much work still needs to be done in preparing Guyanese businesses for interaction with external markets.

In September of this year GO-Invest, in collaboration with the local private sector and CEDA will be hosting the first Guyana Trade and Investment Exposition (GuyTIE), a business to business event aimed at matching local producers with international buyers. This seminal event will help benchmark the export and market readiness of participating local companies and determine the kinds of interventions required to enhance both the quality of the event and its outcomes going forward.

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