Entrepreneurship Centre to boost digital transition


Tribune Business Editor


Grand Bahama’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will benefit thousands of Bahamians by equipping them with the skills to exploit the fast-evolving digital economy.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in a paper detailing its partnership with the University of The Bahamas (UoB) on the centre’s creation, said the initiative was targeted at the mismatch between workforce skills and the needs of a technology-driven economy whose development has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the severity and complexity of the country’s economic weaknesses and problems, and has created the largest negative impact in The Bahamas among IDB Caribbean member countries,” the multilateral lender said in a paper obtained by Tribune Business.

“Prior to the pandemic, and even before the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, Bahamian businesses across the country faced challenges such as low levels of productivity, weak competitiveness and lack of innovation. This has hampered growth and innovation.

“Only 20 percent of firms are large (over 100 employees), and only 7 percent of large firms, 16 percent of medium-sized firms and 13 percent of small firms export. Private sector firms also experience low productivity (17 percent lower than the Caribbean average), low flexibility, adaptive capacity and innovativeness,” the IDB continued.

“Existing industries are not closely connected and face challenges in upgrading goods or moving to other industries. There is also insufficient innovative activity (only 22 percent) of the firms innovate, and innovation is more prevalent in the manufacturing sector while 56 percent of Bahamian firms are potentially innovative if given the right tools and access to connections and inputs.”

To address these woes, the IDB said the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will help tackle the “lack of digital talent, scientific and technological knowledge/research, and access to programs for training”, plus the limited ability of companies and individuals to prepare and adjust for the digital economy.

It also added that there was a “limited connection between the education ecosystem in the country, and private sector partners, to promote more productive and digitally-advanced jobs and livelihoods”.

“There is a need to address these issues and utilise digital technologies to help spur productivity, competitiveness and innovation to create jobs and stimulate entrepreneurship,” the IDB said.

“Additionally, the existential economic threats and vulnerability posed to The Bahamas underscores the severe need for private sector, government and academia to respond effectively in creating a more sustainable entrepreneurial (digital) environment and employment opportunities that help to spark economic growth, climate resiliency, productivity, competitiveness and innovation.”

Noting that the project linked to the Government’s plans to develop Grand Bahama as a technology hub, the IDB continued: “Low representation of women in the technology field also contributes to the problem. Though women outnumber men at the University of The Bahamas, they are under-represented in programmes such as computer information systems and engineering technology.

“The project therefore has as a goal to attract at least 50 percent women participants in the technology courses. The project will benefit students, recent graduates and local entrepreneurs. The main beneficiaries are 600 entrepreneurs completing the incubation program, of which 50 percent are women, 2,500 persons reached in the marketing campaign and 500 graduates of the entrepreneurship bootcamp programme, with at least 50 percent women and specific outreach to include the most disadvantaged groups in vulnerable communities.

“In addition, 1,000 enrolled students and graduates of newly-created certification programmes will benefit, and at least five partnerships will be created for local or international firms and high growth start-ups to host internships in specific applied R&D, technology and innovation fields for a minimum of 100 students (at least 50 percent will be women),” the lender continued.

“Additionally, the project will aim for at least 15 new start-ups to be launched by university students or graduates over the three-year duration of the project. To select the participants in the project, the executing agency will establish a selection committee comprised of internal and external stakeholders including representatives from civil society and government.”


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