Interview: Diane Edwards on Why Cooperation Is Key for the Caribbean to Attract BPO Business

Interview: Diane Edwards on Why Cooperation Is Key for the Caribbean to Attract BPO Business

Finance TnT’s Loren Moss attended the 2017 Outsource to the Caribbean Conference held at the Iberostar Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica last month, where he was able to talk with CAIPA and JAMPRO president Diane Edwards. CAIPA, or the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies is an intergovernmental agency created to help Caribbean investment promotion agencies such as the TTIFC, JAMPRO, CEI-RD and others to cooperate and collaborate with the goal of winning more business together, rather than competing against one another, and the rest of the world.

FinanceTnT: Why was there a need for an event like Outsource to the Caribbean?

Diane Edwards: As US companies continue to seek a nearshore advantage, the Caribbean has been growing rapidly as an attractive and competitive outsourcing destination for global firms seeking to maximize their price-quality ratio.  We also have our home-grown service providers doing work for Fortune 1,000 companies. The Caribbean can now boast between 80,000 and 100,000 active agents in world class companies like Teleperformance, Qualfon, IBEX Global, Sutherland and Hinduja Global, working in diverse areas such as finance and accounting, tech support, healthcare as well as customer service. This story is only beginning to gain traction in the US, so we wanted to gain wider exposure of the Caribbean success story.

Outsourcing can provide needed employment for our graduates, many of whom are migrating to seek job opportunities overseas. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has found that youth unemployment rates in the region are among the highest in the world – 25% and are projected to rise in 2018. Our people are highly qualified and the outsourcing sector presents an opportunity for the promotion of job-led growth that is targeted and allows for the diversification of our economies into other sectors besides tourism.

Finance TnT: Why was CAIPA created? What is its relationship with the Caribbean Export Development Agency?

Edwards: CAIPA is the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies, which counts as its members 23 Caribbean IPAs, including the English, Spanish and Dutch speaking territories of the region. Created under the auspices of Caribbean Export Development Agency, CAIPA’s role is to position the region as an attractive investment destination, sensitize Caribbean governments to the need for well-resourced IPAs (Investment Promotion Agencies) to attract increased FDI and to promote best practice among existing IPAs.  The fact that we have been able to attract membership from almost all Caribbean territories, even those who don’t yet have an IPA and those not yet independent, is a testament to the Association’s success.  Added to this, are the successful investment promotion events held in London and Miami last year.  We are currently promoting the adoption of a Regional Investment Promotion Strategy, which will take us to another level.

Most IPAs will go the extra mile for their clients, such as keeping inventories of available space, organizing job fairs for recruitment of the right human talent, introducing new companies to banks and service providers.

CAIPA was also founded on the basis that investors tend to begin their site selection process at the regional level first before narrowing their focus to any one territory. Promoting the Caribbean and our joint proposition will ensure that the Caribbean makes it to a potential investor’s short-list.

Caribbean Export has been the Secretariat for CAIPA from its inception and continues to support CAIPA’s work as through the Association, Caribbean Export realizes its mandate for investment promotion. The Agency has worked to secure funding for CAIPA successfully landing donor agreements that support the effort, including PROINVEST (2010-2011), the 10th and the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Regional Private Sector Development Programme (RPSDP) and the Regional Public Goods Programme with the IDB (2014-2017).

FinanceTnT: What did the organizers of the event hope to accomplish?

Edwards: This was the first time we were staging an event focused on one sector and outsourcing was the obvious choice due to the region’s improving profile and current success in this industry.  Our objective was to raise the regional profile still further, get the message out to the international market that the Nearshore Advantage is real and desirable, that the Caribbean has tangible benefits to offer to metropolitan outsourcers, gain “talkability” and invite some live investors and end users to see and touch the product first hand.  We find that often the end user of the service has a strong voice in the location of a contract, so we want to get the large outsourcers to understand the Caribbean advantage as well as many service providers do.

FinanceTnT: Do you consider the event to be a success?

Edwards: We think it was a great success, we were able to attract a number of key international thought leaders to the event, including your publication (FinanceTnT), Nearshore Americas and Site Selection, we had some 80 international companies in attendance and we saw a number of business meetings happening, so we know that real engagement was taking place. A number of attendees also went on site visits to observe first-hand the level of productivity we are achieving with the right management.

Finance TnT: What will happen next? How will you keep the momentum going?

Edwards: Both CAIPA and the IPAs will be following up assiduously. There will be inward and outward missions, presence at trade events, we will all assist with due diligence for those wanting to go to the next step. We will start the site selection and facilitation process for those who have decided on a location.  Most IPAs will go the extra mile for their clients, such as keeping inventories of available space, organizing job fairs for recruitment of the right human talent, introducing new companies to banks and service providers.  We are full service agencies, dedicated to landing investment and creating jobs, so we stay close to our clients and tailor our services to their needs.  We welcome our investors to a family where they are never alone, but can always count on us for support.


Related article: CAIPA’s Outsource To The Caribbean Event Considered a Success, But Must Be Built Upon.

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