'Focus on success'
Dwight Bellanfante, Gleaner Writer
A leading business-development specialist is calling for the various micro-business finance schemes, particularly those aimed at young people, to be placed under one umbrella.
Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, director of Make Your Mark consultants, explained that such a move would help to better facilitate the deployment of available loan resources, as well as improve critical support for youth, such as training in business competencies and the promotion of loan facilities.
The business services and youth development outfit's head made the call at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum examining 'Opportunities for Youth Development'.
Micro-finance schemes are often tacked on to lending institutions which have no great incentive to either put in place the required business training or effective promotion of loans, or at least so says Coke-Lloyd.
More effective outcome
By putting the various funds together, whether sourced from multilateral institutions such as the European Union, bilateral or local origins, a more effective outcome could be generated from the millions currently available, Coke-Lloyd said.
"There are too many overlaps and competing funding," Coke-Lloyd noted, adding that there was a need for "a culture of entrepreneurship to be introduced in schools" to better prepare youth for self-employment.
Against the backdrop of recent projections showing youth unemployment in the region of 30 per cent locally, Coke-Lloyd, a former executive director of the Jamaica Employers' Federation, said that it was critical for special attention to be paid to properly preparing youth to become effective entrepreneurs, employees and leaders of the future.
However, she said, that would only happen if there was a more targeted approach to finding and equipping young persons to take up existing loan offers.
She told The Gleaner that measures such as psychometric testing to identify those best suited for business leadership, matching schools with established businesses as mentors, and encouraging the formation of business partnerships from the formative stages in a child's life, were key links in creating a pro-business culture.
It was also necessary to challenge persistent preconceptions in Jamaica that "successful students were prepared for jobs or the professions, while those less successful academically should start businesses", as well as make business-ownership skills part of the formal curriculum in schools, she said.
"The developed countries are way ahead of us in this regard. They start identifying talented people from before they leave college, and we need to create a culture that focuses on success rather than being preoccupied with failure. We need to start coaching them and preparing them for success," she said passionately.
Coke-Lloyd also recommended that a three-year moratorium be provided on loans for new micro-businesses established by young persons.
Agencies such as the Jamaica Business Development Centre should provide companies formed by young persons with marketing information and training to promote success.