The Government of The Bahamas has more than doubled its investment into the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre (Access Accelerator), allotting the entity 55.8 million dollars for the 2020-2021 fiscal year to assist micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in The Bahamas. With this new allotment, the Government is betting big on small business, with the expectation that the businesses funded by this investment will add robustness and resiliency to a renewed Bahamian economy.
The Access Accelerator began operations in 2018 with the government pledging to invest 25 million dollars over five years. Now in its second year of existence, the program has far exceeded its initial funding allocation for MSMEs, having already invested 52.7 million dollars into 962 businesses across the country.
Speaking at the press conference hosted by the Access Accelerator to announce how the newly allocated 55.8 million dollars will be used, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, reiterated the administration’s confidence in the power of small businesses to revive the economy while highlighting the outstanding achievements of the Access Accelerator.
“I have no doubt that the Access Accelerator has had the single greatest impact on advancing the development of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in The Bahamas than any institution before in such a short period,” said Turnquest. “Not only because of the direct investments made through government-sponsored grants, loans, and equity financing, but more importantly, because the Access Accelerator has strengthened the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has created a structure to support a culture of entrepreneurial risk-taking.”
He continued, “The surest bet that we have made as a government is on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bahamian people. We did this in times of stability and continue to do so in times of uncertainty. Regardless of the moment, betting on Bahamians is sure way to create jobs, build wealth, and develop a robust and resilient Bahamian economy.”
Geoff Andrews, Chairman of the Access Accelerator Board of Directors, stated that the organization’s success is due in large part to private sector participation.
“I want to be clear about something: this unprecedented success would have been impossible without the participation of the private sector,” said Andrews. “Therefore, I ask that more of private-sector Bahamas join us in this important work. Come alongside us and work with us to prove that Bahamians can and should get into business and succeed.”
Due to the increase in investment, the Access Accelerator will be able to continue programmes such as the regular Access Accelerator Programme, the Disaster Recovery Programme, the Over-the-Hill Programme and complete already approved assistance offered through the Business Continuity Loan Programme. However, new initiatives such as the Economic Recovery Programme, the Youth Development Fund, and the Universal Pre-School Initiative will also begin.
According to Davinia Grant, Executive Director of the Access Accelerator, the organization aims to help with youth unemployment through the Youth Development Fund, which has a 1.5million dollar funding to create a training, networking, mentorship, and collaboration platform for entrepreneurs 30 years old and under.
Grant said, “In 2015, the level of unemployment among Bahamians between the ages of 15-24 was 25%. In subsequent years, no less than one-fifth of the youth population has been unemployed. Through our Youth Development Fund, we are betting on young entrepreneurs to tip those scales in another direction.”
She continued, “Youth entrepreneurship deepens human capital attributes like self-reliance and skill development. It offers societal benefits: entrepreneurs create jobs, increase innovation, raise competition and are responsive to changing economic opportunities and trends. Particularly related to high youth unemployment, we are betting that success among young entrepreneurs will prove important in driving down youth unemployment.”
The Universal Preschool Initiative is a programme that will utilize the previously allocated one million dollars for preschool entrepreneurs. This programme is in collaboration with the Access Accelerator, the Ministry of Education and the Preschool and Day Care Centre Council.
The Economy Recovery Programme has funding of 25 million dollars and will be a second phase to the Business Continuity Loan Programme targeting specific industries. The industries include fisheries and farming, Bahamian-owned vacation home rental and small scale tourism projects, information and communications technology, alternative energy or energy efficiency, the orange economy and manufacturing.
As for disaster and pandemic relief support, the Disaster Recovery Programme is expected to be supported over the next two fiscal years. During this budget year, 5.3 million dollars in guaranteed loans and 500,000 dollars in standalone grants will be offered through the programme. The current demand for the Business Continuity Loan Programme is over 50 million dollars, with 37 million dollars already approved. The programme, which began in March to help with financial loss during the pandemic, will increase by 15 million dollars while redirecting new applicants to the Economic Recovery Programme.
Executive Director Grant assured entrepreneurs that the reach of the organization will grow and that through innovating, the organization will continue to meet its mandate.
Grant said, “In the coming fiscal year, the Access Accelerator will continue to expand its reach through Islands of The Bahamas. We will strengthen the competencies of Bahamian businesses to ensure long term sustainable access to credit and other forms of capital for business expansion and innovation. We are innovating now, and we will meet our mandate.”
The Access Accelerator is the product of a tripartite arrangement between the government, through the Ministry of Finance, University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). The Centre works to guide the development, funding, growth, and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas.