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The OAS supports the establishment of small business development centers in the Caribbean

  February 24, 2012

The Organization of American States (OAS) and the U.S. Government today launched a project to establish Small Business Development Centers in five Member States of CARICOM, an initiative that aims at helping to improve the competitiveness of small companies in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Dominica and St. Lucia, especially those headed by women.

The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, explained that Caribbean and Latin American countries “have long recognized the importance of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as major contributors to employment and growth within their communities, nations and the region as a whole” and observed that “despite the important challenges the sector faces, it accounts for 70 percent of the jobs and more than 50 percent of GDP in the region. “

The leader of the hemispheric organization expressed his support to the Project given the fact that “with the right support and a structured, sustainable framework, these businesses can play an even more important role in the production network offering numerous opportunities for increased prosperity and poverty alleviation throughout the CARICOM region.”

The Permanent Representative of United States to the OAS, Ambassador Carmen Lomellin, agreed that “SMES are the engines of growth in the Americas continent” and affirmed that equipping SMES with the tools that they need to gain access to, and compete in the global market place “is a priority throughout our region”. In that sense, she added that “the U.S. Government supports enhancing the competitiveness of SMES through exchanging of experiences and best practices, cooperation and the adoption of initiatives geared toward public policies and human institutional capacity building that support productivity and sustainable economic growth.”

Escipion Oliveira, Deputy Director of Caribbean Export, on of the partner organizations for the project, recalled the importance of empowering women who work in the SME and highlighted that his program “will not only help economically but also socially in the countries of the Caribbean” He further noted that the region has a long story of entrepreneurship, focused on traditional sectors. “It is now the time to diversify our economy and in believing in ourselves and developing the internal market of the Caribbean,” he added and expressed his hope that the program will be extended to other countries of the region.

In closing the launching event, the Associate Vice President at the University of Texas in San Antonio, Robert McKinley, underscored that the program “has been successful in the United States for the past 35 years” as a partnership between the government, the universities and the private sector that work on business development to provide services in business training, counseling, technology assistance and research. He further explained that the long term goal is to form an inter-American network of small business development programs with two strategic purposes: development and trade, with especial emphasis in women entrepreneurs. “The Caribbean must not be left out , as the region can benefit greatly from this initiative” he said.

The program that will be implemented by the OAS Executive Secretary of Integral Development aims to facilitate SME access to international markets in the Caribbean. Its operation is based on assisting institutions to support small and medium enterprises in the region in its ability to provide expert advice and training and mentoring programs to guide companies in their growth and competitiveness. The project is supported by the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, and funded by the United States Mission to the OAS. The program has already been implemented in Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, and in the United States are currently 1,100 centers that help businesses to expand international trade opportunities.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-061/12