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President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association Cordell Williams Graham (Photo: Branson Centre)

YEA Jamica president urges country to capitalise on redefining economic growth

President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association Cordell Williams Graham (Photo: Branson Centre)

The novel coronavirus pandemic has left a profound impact on the global economy, exposing the cracks in the existing development pattern and revealing its limitations. But it has also generated the urgency, heightened collaboration and increased funding potential for economies to make transformative changes.

According to President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA) Cordell Williams Graham, the pandemic has presented the opportunity for the country to emerge with a stronger and more resilient economy.

“In every crisis there is opportunity; however, when we focus on the negative as a nation, we will end up missing all the opportunities to establish new innovations, industries and processes which could significantly expand the nation’s productivity and GDP (gross domestic product) growth in the long run,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Opportunities in health and wellness tourism

The YEA president said that the country should now position itself as a health and wellness tourism hub. 

“It is an established fact that a large percentage of the plants used in pharmaceuticals are endemic to Jamaica and there are people who are recovering from COVID-19 using these alternative medicines (natural remedies). What if the Ministry of Health spent time examining these alternative opportunities?” she pondered. 

Medical canabis (Photo: GIS Barbados)

“Not only would we be empowering more Jamaicans with a better chance to survive [the virus], but this could lead to the establishment of a health and wellness tourism industry, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities that can buffer the losses we have experienced in our traditional tourism industry,” Williams Graham told the Caribbean Business Report.

She added that the current shipment delays and high freight rates is an opportunity to promote and provide increasing support to the local agricultural and manufacturing industry.

Williams Graham further underscored the importance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to consider the crisis as a strong driver of creativity and innovation.

“MSMEs, too, must be careful not to miss the opportunities in the pandemic. The sector naturally has contracted. However, contractions are the sign of the birth of something new,” she said.

“Rethink your business model and change your strategy, as well as digitise your products and services to reduce your expenses while expanding your global reach. In the event that your business cannot be digitised, diversify your products, services, partners and suppliers so that you can crisis-proof your business and supply chain,” Williams Graham advised. 

She encouraged the sector to get registered and join a business association which will provide access to a range of opportunities, including but not limited to, training, international fellowships, scholarships, funding, networking, and other capacity-building opportunities. 

She noted too that Government and private sector support is required to empower associations to be more effective in channelling support to the MSME to foster growth. The president further reiterated calls for the Government to implement a wide scale work-from-home order and flexible work arrangements. This, she said, will extend the country’s productivity hours and provide increased employment opportunities resulting in GDP growth.