Caribbean Microfinance Alliance

Belize cops two awards, Grenada one, in Citi-CMFA Caribbean Microfinance Awards

Two Belizean microentrepreneurs and one from Grenada, have won the top prizes in the 2014 Citi-CMFA Caribbean Microfinance Awards presented on June 3, 2014, at a ceremony at the Iberostar Suites Hotel in Montego Bay.

The Belizeans, 17 year old Eider Romero, ER's Icy Treats, won the "Best Young Microentrepreneur Award" and Eved Jose Corado, Etech Services, the "Best Technology Microentrepreneur Award”. Both are clients of La Inmaculada Credit Union in Belize. Grenada's Samuel Andrew, Hill Top Farms, a client of the Grenada Public Service Cooperative Credit Union, was named "Best Rural Microentrepreneur". Receiving the second place prizes were Elsa Waysome, T & T Herbs, Jamaica in the "Best Rural Microentrepreneur" category, Eliel Reynoso, Hawaiian Ice Parlour, Belize in the "Best Young Microentrepreneur" category and William Foster, Foster's Photo Studio, Jamaica in the "Best Technology Microentrepreneur" category.

The six were finalists selected from a field of 31, nominated by microfinance institutions and credit unions which offer microcredit in the English-speaking Caribbean, including Belize and Suriname. The awards programme is designed to raise awareness about microfinance in the region and recognize and highlight the outstanding performance of microfinance institutions and microentrepreneurs. Judging criteria included business growth, innovation and adaptability, contribution to community, challenges surmounted and credit history.

Eider Romero said that he was very thankful to God, his family and La Inmaculada Credit Union which loaned him the funds for his business and the Citi-CMFA “for providing the opportunity for microentrepreneurs to shine." He said he had big plans for his business.

Eved Jose Corado said "the struggles and challenges of being an entrepreneur are huge and you have to work hard to overcome if you want to be successful". He said he was honoured to win the Citi-CMFA Award for Best Technology Microentrepreneur and would continue to work at expanding and improving his business by adding services and products to better serve his customers.

Samuel Andrew had high praise for the Grenada Public Service Credit Union for seeing the potential in his business idea and having the confidence of investing in him when the commercial banks he approached would not. He too has major expansion plans including forward linkages into ecotourism and an agriculture internship training programme for students.

The Citi-CMFA Caribbean Microfinance Awards programme is financed by the Citi Foundation and administered by the Caribbean MicroFinance Alliance (CMFA), a network of over 20 microfinance practitioners and advocates working to promote the development of a responsible and sustainable industry in the region. The CMFA is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Microfinance Capacity-Building Project II (CARIB-CAP II) jointly funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund (a member of the Inter- American Development Bank  Group), the European Commission, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Citi Foundation.

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress in communities around the world and focuses on initiatives that expand financial inclusion.

Ramesh Persaud, Chairman of the CMFA, told the guests at the awards ceremony that "the Citi-CMFA Awards programme was intended to raise recognition that microfinance clients are not just poor and vulnerable individuals with financial needs to be met with hand-outs, but instead, that microentrepreneurs possess the talent, knowledge, understanding and connections to deal with the complexities of business and to introduce new ideas". He said there was a need for "integration and regional cooperation to meet the needs of the high levels of youth unemployment in the region and the underdevelopment in rural communities".

"We need many more start-ups like our awardees today and more upstarts to disrupt the industries we have held on to dearly in the past and even currently,” he declared.

Guest speaker at the event, Christopher Johnson, Vice President, Financial Institutions Head, Citi Jamaica, noted that “Citi’s goal is to build strategic partnerships capable of reaching the scale necessary to tackle the more relevant social issues in each market and region in which we operate. Our partnership with the CMFA and IDB-MIF is a strong example of this”. He said, that the initiative “is part of Citi’s commitment to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of the communities where we live and work”.

Noting that the 2014 Citi-CMFA Caribbean Microfinance Awards recognized the entrepreneurs themselves, he said “we are even better able to identify with the ways in which the microfinance industry has the power to transform and strengthen individuals willing to pursue their dreams of economic independence, which will result in more resilient individuals, families and communities”.

Mr. Johnson said that microentrepreneurs are at the core of social transformation and that by supporting innovation in the microfinance industry, Citi and CMFA are creating an ecosystem in which they can flourish. “We want to go further by identifying and supporting new technologies which will enable all these microenterprises to reach the next level,” he asserted.

Mr. Johnson told guests at the awards ceremony that “over the past three years Citi and Citi Foundation have invested over US $18 million to enhance the capacity of organizations serving networks of microentrepreneurs across Latin America and the Caribbean. This has included the development of new financial products and institutional capacity-building programs for microfinance institutions and their networks”. For 2015, he said Citi intends to devote over US$6 million in investments, focusing mainly on supporting the deployment of new mobile-based solutions which will allows millions of individuals to access information and services at a speed and cost which will allow them to seamlessly run their businesses.

“Citi believes that a broad and solid microentrepreneurial base is a key factor for the success of larger corporations and overall sustainable development for our regional economies,” Mr. Johnson said.

 

WINNERS

Citi Foundation and the Caribbean MicroFinance Alliance are pleased to present profiles on the winners of the Third Annual Citi-CMFA Caribbean Microfinance Awards. Click on the image below to view the PDF file.