Call­ing all en­trepreneurs and in­no­va­tors to at­tend FOROMIC con­fer­ence 2016

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Brigit Helms and Therese Turner-Jones

Later this month, over one thou­sand per­sons from all over the Amer­i­cas—or even fur­ther away—will gather in Mon­tego Bay Ja­maica for the 19th an­nual Foromic con­fer­ence, our re­gion’s most im­por­tant event fo­cused on fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion and how it drives eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion. This is the first time Ja­maica will host Foromic, and only the sec­ond time the con­fer­ence is tak­ing place in the English-speak­ing Caribbean. It is a unique op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple work­ing in fi­nan­cial ser­vices, busi­ness and en­trepreneur­ship de­vel­op­ment, and im­pact in­vest­ment to net­work, learn about key trends and chal­lenges in the re­gion, and ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with the In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank (IDB).

When the first Foromic took place in 1998, there were only about 200 mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions in the re­gion, serv­ing 1.5 mil­lion clients, and the sec­tor was highly de­pen­dent on sub­si­dies from non­govern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions. To­day, the re­gion boasts one of the world’s most di­verse, sta­ble, and in­clu­sive fi­nan­cial sys­tems, with more than 1,000 providers—most of them reg­u­lated and sus­tain­able— and 20 mil­lion clients. This shift from mi­cro­fi­nance to broad-based fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion hap­pened through a lot of hard work, open­ness to in­no­va­tion, and cat­alytic part­ner­ships.

The ground­work is laid, and in­creas­ingly mi­cro­fi­nance is seen not so much as an end in it­self, but rather the means to achiev­ing high-im­pact eco­nomic growth. Are there ways for tal­ented mi­cro and small en­trepreneurs to get the fi­nanc­ing they need to build their firms and cre­ate jobs? What are the unique and un­met fi­nanc­ing needs of women en­trepreneurs, tech star­tups, or fam­ily farms? How should busi­nesses and house­holds re­spond to the ef­fects of cli­mate change al­ready be­ing felt on our coasts and in our forests, and what kinds of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts would help build cru­cial cli­mate re­silience?

Just as the mi­cro­fi­nance sec­tor is look­ing to sharpen its fo­cus and reach new sec­tors and seg­ments, so too is the IDB’s Mul­ti­lat­eral In­vest­ment Fund (MIF), Foromic’s or­ga­nizer. For over two decades, the MIF has served as an “in­no­va­tion lab” for the IDB, re­spond­ing to emerg­ing needs in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean and part­ner­ing with lo­cal ac­tors to pilot mar­ket-based de­vel­op­ment so­lu­tions. This year has been a trans­for­ma­tive one for the MIF, as we have sought to max­i­mize our im­pact by chan­nel­ing our work into just three the­matic ar­eas: cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture, in­clu­sive cities, and the knowl­edge econ­omy. By bring­ing our vast ex­per­tise, in­clud­ing our ground­break­ing work in fos­ter­ing in­no­va­tion in fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion, to these three topics, we be­lieve we can make a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to re­gion wide in­no­va­tion, sus­tain­abil­ity, and op­por­tu­nity. The smaller size and unique geographic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Caribbean is­lands pro­vide op­ti­mal con­di­tions for the kind of work the MIF does. Since our found­ing in 1993, the MIF has in­vested more than $105 mil­lion in more than 180 projects in the English-speak­ing Caribbean. Our pri­or­ity work ar­eas ad­dress many of the is­lands most press­ing needs. Our cli­mates­mart agri­cul­ture in­ter­ven­tions can strengthen food se­cu­rity and re­duce de­pen­dence on im­ported crops. Our in­clu­sive cities projects will im­prove ur­ban life through tran­sit, ba­sic ser­vices, en­trepreneur­ship sup­port, and more. And our fo­cus on the knowl­edge econ­omy will help cre­ate information-age jobs and train a gen­er­a­tion of work­ers to fill them.

One of our re­cently ap­proved projects, about which we are very ex­cited, will launch the first re­gional clean en­ergy fund with a fo­cus on the Caribbean. The Caribbean Basin Sus­tain­able En­ergy Fund, with an ex­pected cap­i­tal­iza­tion of $63 mil­lion, will fos­ter pri­vate in­vest­ment that pro­motes en­ergy se­cu­rity and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity, and ex­pand ac­cess to fi­nance for small and medium-sized en­ter­prises in the en­ergy sec­tor.

The con­fer­ence is only days away, but there is still time to reg­is­ter at www. foromic.org and hear more about po­ten­tial part­ner­ships and in­vest­ments across the Caribbean and through­out Latin Amer­ica. The highly an­tic­i­pated event will take place in Mon­tego Bay, Ja­maica on Oc­to­ber 24th- 26th.

Brigit Helms is the Gen­eral Man­ager of the Mul­ti­lat­eral In­vest­ment Fund (MIF) and Therese Turner-Jones is the Gen­eral Man­ager of the Caribbean Coun­try Depart­ment at the In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank (IDB).

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