Jamaican firm, Access Financial Services, has emerged winner of the Excellence in Finance Award, in the inaugural Citi Micro-Entrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean.
Access will receive a cash prize of US$10,000.
The microfinance operation, headed by Marcus James, was recognised as "one of the premier providers of loans", serving 5,599 active business loan clients through a retail network of 14 branches across Jamaica.
"Access has prioritised 'working-class entrepreneurs' as a key market segment and consistently provides convenient and innovative loan products for this segment," said the statement announcing the winners.
"Despite a challenging economic environment which saw a 1.1 per cent decline in Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product, in 2011 Access recorded a 35 per cent increase in the number of loans disbursed."
The Citi awards also recognises individual entrepreneurs.
The Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship Award went to Belize's Javier Basto of Basto & Sons Plantain Chips. Basto will receive a cash prize of US$3,000.
Frying plantains in his backyard
In 2008, the entrepreneur launched into business by frying plantains in his backyard and selling to friends and neighbours in affordable US$0.50 bags in Guinea Grass Village, Belize.
With financing from La Inmaculada Credit Union for equipment and improved facilities, his business has expanded to seven employees and 5,000 bags per week; and includes cassava chips and churros distributed through grocery stores in Orange Walk Town, Corozal Town and Belize City.
The Citi Micro-Entrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean is a collaboration of Citi Foundation, the Caribbean Microfinance Alliance (CFMA), and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF). The awards are financed by Citi Foundation and administered by CMFA and the MIF.
The awards will be handed out annually. This year, the winners will be presented with their prizes at the Caribbean Microfinance Forum IV in Bridgetown, Barbados, on September 30.
The two winners were picked from a field of five finalists in each category.
Access bested Jamaican credit unions Churches Cooperative and First Regional Cooperative, as well as Guyana's Institute of Private Enterprise Development and Suriname's Seva MFI to cop the award.
Basto topped Romaldo Cal of Cal's Bakery in his home country, Somaroe Khemradj, a rice farmer from Suriname, Guyana's Beverley Paton of Beverley Grocery, and Norine Roberts of S & N Enterprise in Grenada.