One of the positive elements in the recently released Report on last September’s Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) staged at the Marriott Hotel jointly by the public and private sectors with the support of Caribbean Export is that it openly concedes that, for all sorts of reasons, it felt short of what might have been expected. GUYTIE attracted no really high-flying, first world business enterprise, seeking either to make significant investments in Guyana or to close deals relating to the marketing of local goods and services abroad and while it was the first ever initiative of its kind it would have been a good thing to ‘hit the ground running’ towards the end of the year that could well precede the one in which ‘first oil’ will materialize.
The purpose of GUYTIE, the Report says was “to create a platform for local export-ready businesses to engage foreign buyers and other potential partners and specifically to “promote packaged local investment opportunities for foreign direct investment” and to “highlight Guyana as a preferred destination for business.” Mind you, the realization or otherwise of these objectives cannot, invariably, be determined in the immediate term so that there are those who might contend that GUYTIE must be given ample opportunity to achieve its objectives or otherwise.
Whatever might be said about the objectives and the extent to which they might have been accomplished, it has to be said that Guyana has no great experience in the execution of events of this kind and that showed in the conclusions of the organizers’ own post-event SWOT analysis. The analysis listed weaknesses associated with the pre-event “PR and Marketing Campaign,” venue-related layout and space restrictions, less than timely “communication with exhibitors,” deficiencies in “trade show training” and less than effective management of B2B meetings. That is saying a lot about both the logistical challenges which the organizers faced and their seeming inability to surmount them, that failure seemingly a function of a lack of operating experience.
Arising out of what are the organizers’ self-confessed limitations one question that can legitimately be asked is whether there are any serious plans in the pipeline to raise our game by significantly upgrading the competency levels of the functionaries in both the public and private sectors tasked with the planning and execution of events of this nature. One raises this question mindful of the fact that, presumably, going forward, other more ambitious initiatives of the GUYTIE type will be undertaken in an effort to attract investors to Guyana and to create external market opportunities for local manufacturers. To what extent are we going to be – organizationally, that is – ready to execute those when they come.
From the Stabroek Business’ perspective a modest but noteworthy outcome of GUYTIE was the role played in shining a light on some of the small operators in the agro processing sector. Arising out of their participation in GUYTIE a few of them actually secured invitations to participate in a trade fair in St. Lucia whilst two of them attracted investor attention in the United States and Canada – no mean achievement for a sector which, just a few years ago was languishing at a level of labelling and packaging that would have kept their products off the display shelves in many Caribbean countries and certainly in Europe and North America.
In the course of what would have been an introspective post-event assessment of GUYTIE the organizers displayed a level of self-examination that is uncharacteristic of public and private sector officials. The more interesting understandings reached at that forum included a decision that, going forward, in future instances, Caribbean Export “will work along with the GUYTIE Secretariat to develop a mechanism to efficiently and effectively manage the B2B meetings when GUYTIE next comes around. Here, it would appear, is an open confession on the part of the event planners that competencies fell short of what would have been required for effective execution.
There are other interesting concessions made by the organizers which again point to the fact that there was no shortage of soul-searching at the post-event deliberations…like the challenges which the organizers faced in collecting evaluation questionnaires from exhibitors and buyers (which really ought to have been avoided), less than efficient time management, the need for “better use of the Foreign Ministry in planning events of the nature of GUYTIE, the importance of improved exhibitor training, a better public awareness campaign (perhaps surprisingly, the Report says that less than 500 visitors attended the event) and improved communication with exhibitors and buyers.
Over the next few weeks the Stabroek Business will be attempting to follow up on the outcomes of bi-laterals between local and overseas entities involving the local companies Comfort Sleep and W&T George & Company and business entities in St. Lucia, Cuba and Canada.
But while the organizers of GUYTIE 2018 can perhaps put the outcomes of the event down to ‘experience’, the focus in the period ahead must be on doing sufficient remedial work during the interregnum between last September’s event and the next so that accomplishments rather than shortcomings can be the primary focus of the next Report.