Sat | Sep 22, 2018

UK door is open for business for Jamaicans to access

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

With the advent of Brexit, Jamaican business operators no longer need permission from 27 countries in the European Union to trade with the United Kingdom (UK), says new British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad.

"This is an opportunity for Jamaicans to do business with Britain, which has one of the most open markets in the world, and is easy to do business with," the high commissioner told The Sunday Gleaner during a recent interview in western Jamaica.

The emissary, who commenced his tour of duty in April this year, argues that Jamaica will not achieve double-digit market growth by servicing small markets.

He is encouraging Jamaica to capitalise on its positive brand internationally.

"When you mention Jamaica, people's instant reaction is a positive. You have to trade on that," he said.

Pointing out that the United Kingdom was an untapped market for the island's business operators. Ahmad pointed out that the food, clothing, handbags and accessories industries were thriving markets not being focused on by Jamaicans.

"There are hundreds of food products coming from places like West Africa to the UK, where the consumers are being misled into thinking these goods are Jamaican-grown or manufactured, because they are labelled as such," he stated, adding this was simply because sometimes manufacturers think the supply chain is too complicated.

This is far from the case, he said, revealing that sanitary requirements for Ghanaian products into the UK are the same as goods coming from Jamaica.

"So, if a Ghanaian yam farmer can sell his produce in the UK, there is no reason why a Jamaican yam farmer can't," the high commissioner stated, noting that even if the issue is about freight, it is cheaper to freight things from faraway places than from Jamaica's neighbours, the United States.

"That's one of the reasons the Chinese have been so successful here. People connecting the dots is what the issue is."

Ahmad spoke with the newspaper hours after hosting some 150 business operators and members of the Government at a forum dubbed 'Jamaica Going Global: UK Partners and You' at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in the tourism capital.

 

SET UP FULL BANKING FACILITIES

 

In the one-on-one interview, he expressed his wish for the three Jamaican financial institutions already operating in the UK - Jamaica National (JN), Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) and National Commercial Bank (NCB) - to set up full banking facilities there.

Admitting it was not an easy decision to make, he feels this would be extremely beneficial to them.

Banking, food, clothing and accessories are just a few of the untapped areas the high commissioner is touting in his message, noting that he believes the music industry, which was internationalised through the UK, can capitalise on its rich legacy, owing to the fact that his country has one of the biggest creative industries in the world.

Music groups, he said, would have to be willing to take the commercial risk to perform in Europe.

Sports, Ahmad noted, is also another huge area, and the fact that Jamaicans have the ability to run should not satisfy the people here. He said he felt the skills needed to manage events, particularly global events, and make them into business propositions that can be garnered through the UK, which is well respected in the field, having hosted some of the biggest events, including the Olympics.

His suggestion is that, if a Jamaican business is looking to become more globalised or looking to grow, that business requires international partnership.

Admitting that Britain has also lost some of its clout in the Jamaican marketplace over the years, Ahmad said: "We ourselves have to regain some of the space that we have lost over the years, predominantly, in terms of the business presence. We make more cars now than we have ever done, yet persons may not be aware. We are also aware that the structures are different."

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com