The economy of every Caribbean country, from Cuba to Curacao, depends to a certain extent on tourism. The question is not whether Haiti can benefit from tourism so much as where, how, and to what degree. In order to learn more about the potential for tourism in Haiti, we caught up with Patrick Smyth, founder of Tours to Haiti. The interview, as well as a link to the website and contact information, follows.
Small Business Development
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization's International Centre for Science and High Technology (UNIDO/ICS) reports it is preparing an initiaitve to promote next generation biofuels and biofuel refinery in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. As part of this initiative, UNIDO seeks 35 partners in 25 countries. More details are below. Please pass this on to any potential candidates operating in Haiti.
Hard to believe that just a year and a half ago, there were food riots in Port au Prince and other Haitian cities. Since then, Haiti has become become politically stable to the point where firms involved in agriculture, textiles, infrastructure development and tourism are considering investing in Haiti. Livelihood opportunities are sorely needed given that half of Haitians live on less than two dollars a day. Still, the majority of Haitians are small farmers. Without opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, the influx of the rural poor to urban centers will only accelerate. Increasing agricultural productivity/opportunities is key to improving food security in Haiti.
In late 2006, we were blogging about Haiti’s kidnapping crisis. Now in late 2009, we are blogging about investment opportunities. Much has changed. Just last week, hundreds of potential investors gathered for the largest investment conference ever held in Haiti, organized by the Inter American Development Bank with financial support from the Canadian government. Will trade become more important than aid some day? This depends on the answers to two questions. First, can investors make a return on their investments? Second, will the government allocate new resources in an effective, accountable way that benefits all of Haiti and not just the cities?
Microfinance has been successful throughout the world, including in Haiti. Thanks to Mix Market, there is now an application that allows users to track microfinance. Mix Market has published data on more than 1,500 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in 190 countries. As Development Seed puts it,"The Mix Market is a Bloomberg for microfinance...it opens this information up to help MFIs, researchers, raters, evaluators, and governmental and regulatory agencies better see the marketplace, and that makes for better international development."
On September 11th, winners will be selected for the Pioneers of Prosperity Caribbean Awards 2009. Two Haitian companies are in the running: (1) Alternative Insurance Company, founded in 2001 by Olivier Barrau to provide a range of insurance products aimed at Haitians earning less than $4 a day, and (2) Solutions S.A., founded by Kurt Jean-Charles in 2000 to create customized database solutions and information systems. Both companies demonstrate the potential of Haitian businesses and we wish them the best of luck. More details about the contest are below.
Websites do more than give information. They tell stories. Unfortunately, the website of the Haitian Embassy in Washington DC is not doing a good job of conveying, what is one of the most interesting histories in the Western Hemisphere.