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Unfiltered: Barriers to harnessing and monetizing Caribbean culture and resources

I recently listened to Mia Mottley (outgoing Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Barbados) holding a solid Caribbean grassroots intellectual reasoning at the Caribbean Pivot event (in the YouTube video below)….it triggered some of my own reasoning.

What have been some of the barriers to strategically harnessing our culture and resources…monetize, and scale beyond a generation?

Let me share an unfiltered perspective on some institutional hindrances:

1. Politics

Successive Caribbean political administrations are easy targets but they deserve a lot of heat on this. Right across the Caribbean, every 5 years or so, the general elections (re)cycles in a new young (or old) technically-inept Minister who snuffs out any developments of their predecessor to create their own legacy and/or pockets. They walk into their new ministry with their growing political entourage…and without any (official) justifiable reasons disrupt the civil service — displacing Permanent Secretaries and established Technocrats. Seems like every time we take 2 steps forward we take 3 back. Of course, there are exceptions. but not enough.

2. Universities

The universities are a close second….glaringly absent, unless they are undercover agents in these important policy development (and not just dialogues) concerning the development of indigenous and creative capital….in emerging and traditional Caribbean industries.

3. Banks

Also, stop allowing banks from being vulturine (we are really easy pickings for them..when’s its not high interest it’s sneaky banking fees). Even when goverment provides funding through banks, most young entrepreneurs have little or no chance. Even armed with government funds for MSME development, banking requirements are inflexible and out-dated…and offers little or nothing to the entrepreneurship ecosystem…so the government needs to find a more development-conscious conduit to support creators/innovators/MSMEs.

4. “Colonizers” (ones who establish economic/political control over another)

Handouts and loans from our former and present-day Colonizers haven’t advanced us to date….the cost of these benefits/grants/loans are often inappropriately skewed to take possession of our natural resources (and political commitments) for little or nothing. Soon we won’t have anything to leverage.

5. Technology-IP

Technology has leveled the field a bit, yet we have crawled to create/bolster incentives and intensify IP (intellectual property) protection for young entrepreneurs and creatives……and incentives to technologically/efficiently improve traditional industries like Agriculture.

6. Brain Drain

Lack of strategic development of the labour force….including training more nurses and teachers for export (instead of decrying brain drain), which will likely grow remittances…..and mitigate the pending negative immigration policies of developed countries against us.


Countries like Jamaica that have a significant adverse Balance of Trade with other CARICOM partners need to re-negotiate a more equitable/creative regional agreement for their economies, especially if they have a comparatively weak manufacturing sector. If I’m giving you a duty-free market, what are you bringing to the table? Gives everyone a fair footing to grow individually within the region, and not just one or two.

Some persons hold up the Singapore model, but that won’t work for us because we don’t have a dictator-type leadership that can be in power for decades and without serious accountability.

From a social/ethical perspective, I’m optimistically betting on my children’s generation. They put less premium on traditionalism and classism, and more on authenticity, creativity, and social justice….but let’s pray that they don’t lose their souls in this eclectic environment.

Franklin McGibbon (@Biznivist) — Business Activist, Mentor, and Coach for MSMEs (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises); CEO of Linkar Education; Publisher; Speaker.

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