Caribbean Microfinance Alliance

Citi Awards 2012

Winners honoured at the Awards Ceremony for the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean


Citi Foundation, the Caribbean MicroFinance Alliance, and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) hosted the awards ceremony for the 1st annual Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean at the Hilton Barbados on September 30, 2012. During the ceremony Dennis Evans, Citi Cluster Head for the Caribbean, presented the Excellence in Microfinance Award to Marcus James, Founder and CEO of Access Financial Services, and the Excellence in Microentrepreneurship Award to Javier Basto, owner of Basto & Sons Plantain Chips. The 4 other finalists for each award were also presented with certificates of recognition.

The winner of the Excellence in Microfinance Award received a cash prize of US$10,000 and the winner of the Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship Award received a cash prize of US$3,000. Both winners received an expenses-paid trip to Barbados to accept their awards and a short video on their business or institution.

Hon. Denis Kellman, Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development in Barbados addressed the audience and Joel Branski, Representative of the IDB Barbados Country Office provided welcoming remarks. After the ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy Mr. Basto’s plantain chips, which he brought in from Belize. 

Winner of the Excellence in Microfinance Award:

Access Financial Services (Jamaica)

Access Financial Services has established itself as one of the premier providers of loans in the Jamaican microfinance sector, serving 5,599 active Business loan clients through its fourteen branch island-wide retail network. Founded in 2000, the company was successfully listed on the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange by 2009. Despite a challenging economic environment which saw a 1.1% decline in Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product, in 2011 Access recorded a 35% increase in the number of loans disbursed.

The Access team is extremely proud to receive the Excellence in Microfinance Award for the Caribbean as it demonstrates our commitment to fostering economic growth and job creation in Jamaica. We believe that the development of micro and small enterprises will be one of the main pillars of economic growth and as such we are committed to the development of this sector. We will continue to serve the sector through the provision of innovative products and excellent customer service." said Marcus James, CEO Access Financial Services Ltd.

Winner of the Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship Award:

Javier Basto, Basto & Sons Plantain Chips (La Inmaculada Credit Union, Belize)

In 2008 Javier Basto began frying plantains in his backyard and selling them to friends and neighbors in affordable US$0.50 bags in Guinea Grass Village, Belize. The Basto & Sons product line now includes cassava chips and churros (a fried flour-based chip) and sales in 2011 equaled US$68,250.

The trip to Barbados was Mr. Basto’s first time leaving Belize and he said that he greatly enjoyed traveling and seeing the island of Barbados. Mr. Basto stated that he plans to use his prize money to upgrade the equipment he uses for sealing the plastic chip packages.

I am extremely thankful to God first and foremost. I am also very thankful to LICU for always being there for me, not only in providing loans and financial services, but in expanding my horizons. I look forward to working with LICU and I hope to be an example for many others to follow, that with hard work and the right support structure, we can all be self-sufficient and economically stable,” stated Javier Basto, Basto & Sons Plantain Chips.

The 4 other finalists for the Excellence in Microfinance Award were:

  • Churches Cooperative Credit Union (Jamaica)
  • First Regional Cooperative Credit Union (Jamaica)
  • Institute of Private Enterprise Development (Guyana)
  • Seva MFI (Suriname)

The 4 other finalists for the Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship Award were:

  • Romaldo Cal, Cal’s Bakery (La Inmaculada Credit Union, Belize)
  • Somaroe Khemradj, Rice Farmer (Seva MFI, Suriname)
  • Beverley Paton, Beverley Grocery (Institute of Private Enterprise Development, Guyana)
  • Norine Roberts, S & N Enterprise (Grenville Cooperative Credit Union, Grenada)

All of the finalists for the micro-entrepreneur award started off with just an idea and a small amount of capital to start their business. They are engaged in diverse activities such as baking, farming and retailing, and in just the past three years, most of them have more than doubled their annual sales. Through remarkable drive, ingenuity and hard work, these entrepreneurs have overcome challenges, expanded their business, hired new employees and helped to improve their respective communities,” said Winsome Leslie, MIF Senior Specialist and Team Leader for the Caribbean Microfinance Capacity Building (CARIB-CAP) I and II programs.

Dennis Evans, Citi Cluster Head for the Caribbean said, “This initiative is part of Citi's commitment to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of the communities where we are present.  Citi is proud to be working with the IDB MIF in supporting the Caribbean Microfinance Alliance, and to be launching the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards (CMA) in the English-speaking Caribbean for the first time.  I look forward to meeting and congratulating the winners in person at the awards ceremony”.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were presented at the Caribbean Microfinance Forum IV in Bridgetown, Barbados on September 30, 2012. The Forum is an important knowledge-sharing venue for microfinance institutions in the English-speaking Caribbean and discussions this year covered issues such as the state of microfinance in the Region, responsible microfinance (i.e. client protection, etc.) and the Smart Campaign, the value of a Caribbean microfinance network as a mechanism for knowledge-sharing, and development of the microfinance industry. The Caribbean Microfinance Forum was held in conjunction with the Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise (FOROMIC) hosted by MIF/IDB on Oct. 1-3, 2012, in Barbados. 

The Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean are financed by the Citi Foundation and administered by the Caribbean Microfinance Alliance (CMFA) and the MIF. The awards program has 3 goals: 1) to raise awareness about microfinance; 2) to build awareness about the important role microentrepreneurs play in their local economies; and 3) to develop the next generation of microfinance networks.


Finalists for the Excellence in Microfinance Award

Churches Cooperative Credit Union

Churches Cooperative Credit Union commenced microfinance operations in 2006 with the goal of offering Jamaican microentrepreneurs unable to get assistance through regular commercial banks the opportunity to save and grow their business through innovative loan products and services. One such innovation is the offering of insurance coverage to credit union members to assist with loan repayment and hospital bills if there is an accident and the entrepreneur is unable to work. Churches Credit Union prides itself on being “the Caring Place to Grow” and in 2011 disbursed loans valued at over US$1.163M to 780 entrepreneurs through 7 branches located in major towns around the island. Churches has made a name for itself by providing competitive rates while giving personal attention and service to its clients.

Our products and services are easily accessible by making the requirements easy to attain. Our rates are the most competitive on the market and our customer service and post-help after we have approved a loan is second to none.”

- Sophia Richardson, Micro and Small Business Unit Manager


First Regional Cooperative Credit Union Limited

First Regional Cooperative Credit Union commenced MFI operations six years ago, out of a clear concern for improving the welfare of each of their members engaged in microentrepreneurship, often in rural areas of Jamaica. During that time First Regional distinguished itself by providing excellent microfinancing products matched with superior customer service and relationship banking. Last year this effort translated into loans valued at US$1.162M being disbursed to 5,685 entrepreneurs. One of the main features of their microfinance product is the savings requirement of 10% of the loan amount which allows clients to honour their loan payments while increasing their equity and wealth. This “collateral” is returned to the client when the loan is repaid. First Regional has been awarded Most Outstanding Parish Credit Union (2005 – 2010) and Credit Union of the Year (2006 and 2009) by the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League (JCCUL).

At First Regional, we pride ourselves in providing excellent financial services with a personal touch for all our valued members. Our range of products and services is especially designed to help our members create wealth and achieve financial stability

– Kerry Gordon, Marketing Manager





Institute of Private Enterprise Development

The Institute of Private Enterprise Development started 26 years ago in Georgetown, Guyana to provide help to those that were willing to help themselves and to date has disbursed 78,134 loans with a total value of over US$80M helping more than 30,000 enterprises, many of them rural. IPED has a strong customer service focus. Its 1,611 active clients are served through branch offices and sub offices established in all 10 administrative regions of Guyana and clients have the option to make payment through IPED’s offices or at any Post Office or Western Union Money Transfer location across the country. In addition IPED has television and radio programs that disseminate useful guidance and tips to get entrepreneurs going and keep their enterprises growing. These efforts to innovate in service delivery have ensured that IPED continues to be an important supporter of Guyana’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Sector in Guyana.

We believe that a good loan takes a family out of poverty and creates wealth but a bad loan sinks them deeper into hopelessness. Therefore, we will do only good loans since we care about our clients.

– Ramesh Persaud, CEO


Seva MFI

Seva MFI began its operations in 2006 in a rural part of Suriname called Nickerie where rice cultivation is the main source of income, and it has expanded from 17 clients to 400 during this period. The company comes in where the traditional banking system fails, providing non-collateralized loans to rice farmers, who are mostly male, and women who are involved in micro-businesses. Seva has enhanced its service to this segment by negotiating with local importers of fertilizers for discounted prices for its clients, recognizing that this was a major challenge for the farmers. Starting in October 2012 Seva will import its own fertilizer, ensuring huge discounts and stable supplies for its farmer clients. Through Seva’s strong growth over the past 6 years, it has increasingly bolstered the development of farmers and micro businesses, and by extension, poor families in rural Suriname.

(They) get tools to earn a better living, increasing their confidence and helping towards a better community”

Weena Matai-Ajodhia, Board Member






Finalists for the Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship Award

Mr Romaldo Cal, Cal’s Bakery (financed by La Inmaculada Credit Union)

 Twelve years ago, Romaldo Cal bought a stove and began baking and selling bread from his home in Trial Farm Village located in Orange Walk District, Belize. His excellent quality and service were welcomed and he established a solid market, soon investing in industrial baking equipment and expanding and improving the facilities with financing from La Inmaculada Credit Union. Despite competition from a nationally recognized bakery and several smaller bakeries, Mr Cal worked arduously to create a niche market for his tasty assortment of sweet breads, salt breads and buns. He now has two trucks, financed by loans from the credit union, making deliveries to villages in both Orange Walk Town and Corozal Town while still selling from his home. He has 14 employees and sales for 2011 stood at US$143,750, up from US$112,500 in 2009. Cal’s Bakery is a supporter of both the Trial Farm Government School and the Trial Farm Village Council. Mr Cal wants to involve his daughter, a recent Junior College graduate in the business and has plans to establish a bread and pastry shop near his home.

Mr Somaroe Khemradj, Rice Farmer (financed by Seva MFI)

After both of his parents passed away when he was young, Mr Somaroe Khemradj was raised by his grandmother in a rural area in Suriname. After working for other farmers, in 1990 Somaroe Khemradj started cultivating his own crop of rice on 3 acres of land that was later given to him by his grandmother. For many years he had to depend on rice buyers to provide fertilizer and to finance his crop. This meant that they charged high interest rates and that he was forced to sell the crop to them at a low price. In 2009 Mr Khemradj began receiving financing from Seva MFI, which enabled him to pay a lower interest rate and sell to the highest bidder. His income has increased dramatically and his higher revenues have enabled him to buy a tractor and refurbish his house. He has expanded to cultivating 8 acres by renting extra land and his sales have grown from US$7,200 in 2009 to US$20,900 in 2011. In the future, Mr Khemradj plans to acquire more land so that he can increase his production. He also plans to buy a new tractor, to replace the current one which is 40 years old.

Mrs Beverley Paton, Beverley Grocery (financed by Institute of Private Enterprise Development Ltd)                                                  

Beverly Paton lives in an isolated rural Amerindian community of 500 people in Guyana that did not have electricity until 3 years ago. Fifteen years ago she was selling homemade snacks and finger foods and in 1998 she utilized a loan from IPED to add manufactured goods such as candy, soft drinks and other consumables. These goods became a starting point for strong business growth and eventually Mrs Paton was able to establish a small grocery store and purchase land to construct her own home. Since her community is far from town and did not have electricity until recently, her grocery store has been essential in providing cold items—before electricity came, she had to store items in coolers with ice packs.  Her value-added is that she provides goods that residents do not have convenient access to. Her sales have increased from US$7,800 to US$10,800 in the past 3 years and she currently has 6 employees. Mrs Paton also supports the community and promotes her business by hosting weekend activities such as barbeques and by providing delivery service for groceries to elderly people.

Mrs Norine Roberts, S & N Enterprise (financed by Grenville Cooperative Credit Union)

Fifteen years ago Norine Roberts started her business with just US$60 as a vendor selling male and female underwear on the streets of Grenville, Grenada. Not long after, she began selling from a booth and eventually earned enough to open a small clothing boutique. Since then she has diversified into other markets by adding on a wholesale goods delivery service as well as a supermarket. Loans and training from Grenville Credit Union have boosted her remarkable expansion and her gross sales increased from US$28,000 in 2009 to over US$44,000 last year. Mrs Roberts employs 7 persons from the community and is always ready to make donations and assist with sponsorships for community activities. In the future she plans to buy a larger location which would combine her businesses and sell both groceries and clothes. She wants her business to be the “Walmart” in Grenada.


About Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, Youth Education and Livelihoods, and Financial Capability and Asset Building. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance and Enterprise Development to support environmental programs and innovations. Additional information can be found at

The Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards which are funded by Citi Foundation began in one country in 2001 and have since expanded to over 30 countries and regions today.


 About the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF)

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, was established in 1993, and is funded by 39 donor countries.  MIF supports private sector-led development benefitting the poor and low-income populations—households, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and small farmers. It aims to give them the tools to boost their incomes by funding projects in three broad access areas: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services. MIF is the largest technical assistance provider in Latin America and the Caribbean, leveraging US$100 million in project funds each year. (