The Haiti Tech Summit will be held from June 2-5 in Port-au-Prince (location to be announced). The Haiti Tech Summit will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and others to address development changes in Haiti that can be addresed through technological innovation. The event is projected to include 100 speakers, 500 companies, and 1,000 attendees. Sign up for updates and more information about program and organizers follows.
Small Business Development
When thinking of Haitian exports, mangos, coffee, and rum may come to mind. However, Haiti was once and could be yet again a significant producer of cacao – the raw form of cocoa that is roasted and converted into chocolate. Expanding cacao production would mean livelihoods for farmers in rural Haiti while potentially complementing reforestation efforts. This is, all in all, a sweet deal.
Below is a an article by Forbes writer Jo Piazza about Haitian-American entrepeneur Alexis Gallivan. With the management skills she acquired selling ice cream in Brooklyn, Gallivan decided to replicate her business in Haiti. Being an entrepeneur in Haiti is tough - it ranks 182nd out of 189 countries in the latest Worrd Bank "Ease of Doing Business" Report. To put that into perspective, Afghanistan is 177th. However, the Haitian diaspora is full of individuals with skills, resources, and the potential to create small businesses that provide training and livelihoods. Learn more at the Bel Rev website.
Toilet paper is something that it is not adequately appreciated until one does not have it - and forty percent of Haitians do not. Myrtha Vilbon, with support from USAID, has grown her toilet paper production facility significantly. While Haiti is not yet an easy place to do business, she has done well, with over 100 employees (70 of them women) in her factory. The full article by the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles follows.
Timberland has made significant investments in reforestation in Haiti, which you can learn about in the documentary "Kombit: The Cooperative". Timberland's persistence and partnerships have resulted in five million trees (many of them fruit-bearing) being planted. According to The Guardian, Timberland is also supporting a feasibility study to determine if Haiti could become a significant producer of organic cotton. Cotton production is not without its challenges and the jury is still out as to whether it is a crop that makes sense for Haiti. The full article follows below.
Below is an article by David McFadden (Associated Press) concerning the planned development of a port on the Ile de la Tortue north of Port de Paix. The island, poorer than most other parts of Haiti, would certainly benefit from the jobs that could potentially come with the port. The main livelihood opportunities at present involve drug smuggling and construction of boats for fishing and/or smuggling. This, along with international flights, opens up new possibilities for tourism in northern Haiti.
Encite Capital is a new non-profit organization with the objective of supporting small business development in Haiti with an emphasis on agribusiness, manufacturing, and alternative energy. The official launch party will be held on July 25th from 6-8pm at the Hillyer Gallery in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington DC. To learn more about Encite Capital, check out their website or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. More information follows.
Lee Rainboth recently wrote a blog about a Travel Channel series called Dangerous Grounds, an episode of which was shot in Haiti. Due to the cultural insensitivity of the crew, the episode suggests Haitians are dangerous and unpredictable. In reality, Carmichael is just another fly-by-night visitor who didn't take the time to understand Haitian culture. In reality, Haitians are remarkably hospitable and go out of their way to help strangers. That having been said, Haitian coffee is excellent and well worth seeking out.
Below is an LA Times article about the difficulty and potential of promoting tourism in Haiti. Every country in the Caribbean benefits from tourism to some extent. Haiti's tourism industry could also grow (modestly) over time - with stability, more hotels, and hospitality training programs. Linkages to tourism agencies in the Dominican Republic could also open up cross-border tourism. Thoughts on promoting tourism in Haiti? Post your ideas below.
Haiti requires foreign assistance for many years to come. However, trade is more important than aid over the long term. Digicel and others have shown that, while a difficult place to do business, investment can be both beneficial to Haiti and profitable to investors. A two day event to court new investors, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, was recently concluded. Announcements included planned improvements to route national one, an industrial park in the north, and a large, new hotel in Port au Prince. A Miami Herald article by Jacqueline Charles on the forum follows.