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Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Forign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith speaking at the 2019 Jamaica Diaspora Conference (Photo: JIS)

Tapping into the diaspora market

Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Forign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith speaking at the 2019 Jamaica Diaspora Conference (Photo: JIS)

It is estimated that the Jamaican Diaspora numbers close to three million — as many as the current population of Jamaica — and contributes over US$1 billion per annum in remittances to the country.

Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Audley Shaw is of the view that this market continues to be one of the country’s greatest underutilised assets, thus it can become a major player in Jamaica’s future development.

In his keynote address at the virtual second Annual Caribbean Future Summit last Friday, Shaw indicated that the country can channel the Jamaican Diaspora’s desire to give back into profitable mutually beneficial investment.

This strategy also include building enhanced trading relationships between Jamaican exporters and Diaspora importers, as well as creating the economic growth conditions and employment opportunities that will entice many people from the Diaspora back home to leverage their expertise for the country’s development.

“The diaspora is a huge market for Jamaican products. You only have to look at the lines waiting to buy Jamaican mangoes when the shipments arrive, and you only have to speak to the green grocers in Brixton market, London, to ask them why they pretend produce is from Jamaica, when it often is not. Our produce commands a premium in the market!” Shaw argued, noting that the Diaspora is poised to become traders of Jamaican produce because they understand it better than anyone else.

Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Audley Shaw (File photo)

“Where we need to improve is by creating more jobs for the diaspora talent pool. We need to implement more opportunities for Jamaicans to fill jobs in our growing digital global services sector, fill executive posts in the tourism sector, and bring new technologies back to Jamaica… [for example], the state-of the-art dialysis venture in Montego Bay, Jamaica’s second city,” he continued.

According to him, through its offices in New York, London and Toronto, the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), the investment arm of the ministry, continually engages with the Diaspora through different fora, such as the Global Diaspora Council, to promote investment opportunities.

The Jamaica Promotions Corporation continues to engage the Jamaican Diaspora through various fora to promote investment. (File photo)

The minister noted that just a few weeks ago, on a visit to New York, he met with importers of Jamaican products, and potential investors, with some of them from the Diaspora.

Additionally, Jampro has recently launched the Economic Diplomacy Programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, which leverages Jamaica’s diplomatic missions and consular posts across the world. This network, Shaw said, is devoted to the economic development of Jamaica and support for Jamaicans in the Diaspora.

Hosted by education technology recruitment company Global Start-up Ecosystem, the summit was held under the theme ‘From Diaspora Engagement to Investment – Connecting to the Caribbean’s Future Pillars — Tourism, Technology and Talent’.