The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

It has been said that the in­for­mal econ­omy, which typ­i­cally con­sists of small and mi­cro-en­ter­prises, is of­ten left out in sur­veys and data gath­er­ing in the mar­ket. And while sev­eral in­ter­na­tional stud­ies on the SME sec­tor were made in the larger Caribbean is­lands, the OECS re­gion has typ­i­cally been over­looked. “SMEs are cen­tral to the sur­vival and suc­cess of the Com­mu­nity. The sec­tor is seen as hav­ing the po­ten­tial for cre­at­ing back­ward and for­ward eco­nomic link­ages; to re­duce for­eign cur­rency ex­pen­di­ture; to uti­lize lo­cal raw ma­te­rial in­puts; and to en­hance eco­nomic and so­cial con­di­tions gen­er­ally. These en­ter­prises are fur­ther per­ceived to be flex­i­ble; able to re­spond rapidly to the mar­ket; in­no­va­tive; and are key sources of em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion for women and youth,” stated Lolita Ap­ple­whaite, for­mer deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of CARICOM. She went on to point out that most im­por­tant is the fact that re­gion­ally, thou­sands of small busi­ness op­er­a­tors are found in all of the ma­jor sec­tors – agri­cul­tural, in­dus­trial, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and ser­vices. In fact, if only be­cause of sheer num­bers, SMEs are sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to our economies. In or­der to fully un­der­stand the needs of the SMEs and their po­ten­tial, Ax­cel Fi­nance, the lead­ing re­gional mi­cro-fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion, is un­der­tak­ing what may be the largest sur­vey of the sec­tor ever con­ducted.

“There is no se­cret that the mi­cro, small, and medium-sized en­ter­prises play a crit­i­cal role in the econ­omy. We felt that it was im­per­a­tive to reach out on an in­di­vid­ual level and sur­vey the sec­tor to pro­vide us with fur­ther in­sights into what we can do to stim­u­late the sec­tor,” Ax­cel CEO, Sam Rosen­berg says. “Such stud­ies are typ­i­cally taken by large NGOs but in the ab­sence of data for the OECS we de­cided to step in and em­bark on this ini­tia­tive,” he adds.

The sur­vey has been ini­ti­ated in sev­eral other coun­tries and con­sists of fifty ques­tions. It fo­cuses on the de­mo­graph­ics in the MSME sec­tor, avail­abil­ity of fi­nanc­ing, uti­liza­tion of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts such as sav­ings and in­sur­ance and their spe­cific needs.

Ac­cord­ing to Mrs. DanzieVi­talis, Coun­try Man­ager of Ax­cel Fi­nance, “We are cov­er­ing ev­ery com­mu­nity in the coun­try to iden­tify com­mon­al­i­ties but also the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of each mar­ket.”

When com­pleted, the sur­vey re­sults will be shared with the Gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor.

Ax­cel Fi­nance (Saint Lu­cia) Ltd. is a mi­cro-fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to the pro­vi­sion of high-qual­ity and in­no­va­tive macro- and mi­cro­fi­nan­cial so­lu­tions for un­der­served mar­kets. By de­ploy­ing cap­i­tal in a re­spon­si­ble and prof­itable man­ner, Ax­cel Fi­nance en­ables in­vest­ment in the eco­nomic im­prove­ment and so­cial mo­bil­ity of its clients in the mar­kets it serve.

Ax­cel Fi­nance pro­vides mi­cro-loans for con­sumers as well as mi­cro-fi­nanc­ing fa­cil­i­ties for small en­ter­prises, giv­ing the bor­rower ac­cess to the quick­est, safest and most re­li­able fi­nanc­ing op­tions for a range of one-time ex­penses, such as healthcare, school sup­plies, travel ex­penses, home-busi­ness ex­penses, among oth­ers.

Ax­cel Fi­nance of­fices are lo­cated in the Blue Coral Mall, Castries, Ga­bel­woods Mall South, Vieux Fort, and GTM Build­ing, Soufriere.

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