Barbados is currently losing out on billions of dollars from the high technology industry despite being ideally located and having key infrastructure in place, an international business expert said Thursday.
Roland Haggins, Executive in Residence at the UWI Sagicor School of Business and Management, made this observation during an online Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) fintech seminar to explore Barbados as an ‘emerging hub” for international business and innovation.
Pointing to rapid changes across countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haggins said: “One thing is clear, if we are not agile we will fall behind, and if we are not adaptive and proactive to our environment we run the risk of becoming obsolete in the face of these global changes”.
Stating that the technology industry was on pace to reach $10.4 trillion (US$5.2 trillion) this year, he said he saw no reason for Barbados not to attract several of tig technology platform, software and biotech firms.
“We can see that Barbados is at the centre of trade capturing international business as the global innovation hub. We are strategically located in the western hemisphere to capture a lot of business.
“And if we look at the type of investment that is coming just to fintech alone – last year there was 2,693 deals worth US$135 billion ($270 billion) that went into fintech alone, and we can capture some of this business – we just need a few billion dollars’ worth of business. We are not greedy.”
Haggins explained that Bridgetown already had the education and ICT infrastructure in place, talent, and regulation.
“We are in the right time zone, we’ve got the right climate, we are close in proximity to the US . . . so there are a lot of people who would be very happy to come here and to bring their business. This is something we can think about in terms of where we are going forward,” he said.
“In addition, Barbados is perfectly positioned to be a trading hub for securities, commodities, currencies, digital assets, you name it,” added Haggins.
Welcoming Government’s 12-month welcome stamp initiative, he called on the international business community to help encourage some of the big tech firms to set up operations on island, adding that there was a need for greater collaboration between the private and public sector, and a strategic approach for the growth of the international business sector.
He also called for improvement in the ease of doing business, increased government support through regulation and policies, and the creation of a more enabling environment.
“Innovation need support. We need support from the government. In the same way we expect to see support for tourism, the international business sector needs that same support.
“If we don’t get that we can end up falling and being isolated from the rest of the world and not having that integration that we need to be an innovation hub because this doesn’t happen by accident. There has to be a strategic role that is played where we focus on areas for growth,” Haggins explained.
He said the process also called for good governance and “a release of our talent to do what we need to do”.
Haggins said: “This environment is very dynamic. So we need to be agile .
“We also need to have that support in terms of releasing those that need to go and conduct trade missions to attract business from key locations,” he said.
“We need to have for example, an ambassador to the Middle East because there is huge business that should be coming from Dubai [and] from Israel. These are great strategic partners that we need to look at.”
He urged officials to also seek out “strategic alliances” with technology firms in countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Africa and Hong Kong.
“We are not saying we want fintech companies to come and set up in Barbados and Barbadians are going to be the customers. What we are saying is that we want you to set up in Barbados and we want you to do international business,” said Haggins.
During the fintech seminar, attendees also got an insight into the changing face of artificial intelligence/machine learning and how it could be used to enhance the insurance industry.
The international business sector officials also learned about several innovations that were taking place in the technology industry here and in other jurisdictions.