The momentum of the Africa meets the Caribbean Trade Mission in Jamaica picked up with an early morning meeting at the Small Business Association of Jamaica. This meeting coincided with a prearranged radio interview on Power Radio 106 FM where Denis St Bernard, director of Priority Group International and director of the Africa meets the Caribbean Trade Mission spoke at length with Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Solutions PLC and head of the Nigeria delegation, Mr Bola Akindele.
President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica Dr Meredith C. Hypolite Derby received the trade delegation which included Mr Denis St Bernard of Priority First UK, a subsidiary of Priority Group International; and Caribbean Enterprise Network (CENUK), Mr Bola Akindele Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Solutions PLC, Mr Femi Niyi, Executive Director ( Projects , Strategy and Research, Courteville Business Solutions PLC, Wale Sonaike,Deputy Managing Director ( AutoReg Franchise ), Mr Del Atah, Managing Director Zeraxis, Mr Clyde Baker, Chairman Priority Group International and director CENUK: and the CaribDirect.com team.
Accompanying Dr Derby was small business owner and upholsterer, Mr Oswald Smith. Dr Derby wasted no time by setting the background of how Jamaican business owners, to a large extent view Nigerians given their long standing reputation for being clever and thrifty with a knack for using unconventional means to make money. She said in spite of this, she has warned her colleagues in business in Jamaica that there are many Nigerians who are honest law abiding citizens. Dr Derby drew a parallel with Columbia, widely known for cocaine production and distribution, as a country with many other valuable natural resources that account for a significant percentage of its GDP.
Dr Derby mentioned her delight on meeting the trade delegation outlining the many positive things happening to the Small Business Association of Jamaica including the recent acquisition of much needed funding for the organisation. She expressed her interest to explore mutually beneficial programmes with Nigeria.
Mr St Bernard set thing off by introducing the team and asking each member to introduce themselves. Mr Bola Akindele took the opportunity following his introduction to acknowledge the stigma associated with his country, a situation that is gradually improving, and outlined his present experience of being the recipient of spam emails and money scams from other countries.
Bola went on to describe Courteville’s profile and indicated his confidence that with his 7 year tenure and the listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Courteville Business Solutions can be a credible partner to Small Business Association of Jamaica. He invited Dr Derby to carry out the necessary due diligence to provide the necessary comfort for the SBAJ’s membership to accept the opportunity to work with the Courteville Group.
‘Though the SBAJ has been in operation for many years with a fairly large membership base, the organisation suffers from a lack of funding associated with insufficient membership contributions,’ Dr Derby said. This situation has come about through competition from other membership based organisations and many members falling behind on membership dues for many reasons including financial difficulties, membership with other similar organisations, payment delinquency among others.
Mr Femi Niyi, Executive Director ( Projects , Strategy and Research, Courteville Business Solutions PLC quickly asked if the organisation had a comprehensive database of members, to which Dr Derby replied, ‘No.’ Femi explained how critical such a database was to a membership organisation such as the SBAJ, stating that such a system could have a very positive impact on the functionality of the organisation as well as be monetized over time for the benefit of the membership.
Mr Smith reiterated the point that small businesses are the life blood of the Jamaica economy and need to be encouraged and sustained and that any system that can assist with this would be welcome.
Bola described how effective Courteville has been as a business solutions provider with a specialty in Information Technology in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. He emphasised the point that the problems of Jamaica generally, and the SBAJ are not dissimilar to those in Nigeria, a country of 162 million people and offered a commitment to help the SBAJ overcome their challenges with a solution he’s confident will work perfectly.
Dr Derby recognised the synergies, the opportunities to transform the fortunes of the SBAJ and announced her interest to pursue further discussions with a view to entering into a formal arrangement with Courteville. She suggested that Courteville use Jamaica as the pilot for establishing trade links with the Caribbean given their intention to invest over USD$600 million over five years.
Later on that day the delegation met officials from the famed University of Technology (UTECH), the institution that has produced international star athletes such as Double Olympic 100m gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and the charismatic current world record holder Usain Bolt, among others.
In attendance were UTECH representatives, Mr Hector Wheeler, Director of Advancement; Mrs Rosalea Hamilton, Vice President of UTECH and CEO of Jamaica’s Institute of Law & Economics at the University of Technology; Sheena Johnson Brown, Acting Programme Director, BA Communications, Arts & Technology; Mathew Bryan, Director UTECH SAPNA Software Development and Cheryll Messam, Alumni Relations Manager….
Mr Del Atah, Managing Director Zeraxis presented a detailed overview of his company and emphasised the need for knowledge transfer solutions aimed at meeting the requirements of local and global companies. he focused on elucidating the synergies between Zeraxis and UTECH with a view to setting the stage for discussions to formalise relations that will see business students / young entrepreneurs providing much needed professional services to international clients.
In response Mr Hector Wheeler whom was thankful for the level of detail contained in the presentation suggested there was certainly scope for dialogue to arrive at an arrangement that will ultimately benefit the students. Mr Michael Steele, felt Zeraxis’ proposition should be skewed toward young entrepreneurs with a strong propensity for IT looking to access global markets should be the focus and not inexperienced students of Information Technology and business.
The next presentation was delivered by Mr Bola Akindele Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Solutions PLC who set out the back drop of the Nigerian education system by alluding to the fact that there are far more applicants for university places than are available something like 10,000 applications for only 1500 places. He suggested strongly that UTECH consider allowing Courteville to provide a robust online version of the existing curriculum aimed at suitably qualified Nigerian applicants.
Though Bola joked about seeking out the Jamaican yams made famous for producing world class runners, for the exclusive use of Nigerian sprinters he stressed that his proposal to establish a Distance Learning platform for UTECH to access West African students, will only be successful if the price is right…that it is competitive and presents an attractive option to conventional programmes on offer at Nigerian universities.
The issue of Intellectual Property was raised by School of Business official Olubusola Akinladejo who expressed concern about the security of the content and branding of UTECH on the Courteville platform. Bola and Femi swiftly responded that they have handled very sensitive systems for banks and Courteville Business Solutions owns 50% of the Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, they manage the databases insurance companies and so on and have never had a problem…Bola assured UTECH that their specialism is IT which provides a reasonable guarantee of safety.
To round off this busy day the delegation were invited to attend the Eighth Regional Conference on Investments & the capital Markets hosted by the Jamaica Stock Exchange at the Jamaica Pegasus.
CaribDirect local representative Ms. Donnelle Christian, managed to meet up with Member of Parliament Mr Raymond Pryce who was delighted at the presence of the trade delegation, saying, ‘This is the kind of thing this country needs now and I look forward to details of the outcomes…’
Also on hand was General Manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Mrs Marlene Street Forrest who welcomed the trade delegation and congratulated coordinator Ms Claire Jackson. The event was graced with the presence of The Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica who was the keynote speaker.
Stay online with CaribDirect for tomorrow’s report. Article and Photography by David F. Roberts
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