50 SKY SHADES - World aviation news

The Caribbean will get business incubators! A chance for future air mobility?

Date: 23 Jul 2023 16:35 (UTC)

The Saudi Fund for Development recently signed a $10 million loan agreement to construct business incubation centers in the Bahamas. It was signed in Riyadh by the CEO of the Fund, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad and the Hon. Isaac Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation. 

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The agreement involves the construction of business incubation centers on some of the islands of the Bahama archipelago to support the growth of tourism, create direct and indirect job opportunities, and to enhance sustainable economic development. The loan will enable the establishment of three dedicated incubation centers to facilitate new business projects of a total of 100 small companies. 

Might aviation development of the future play a role? In general, the Caribbean is the region in the world that is most dependent on air transportation. The Bahamas Archipelago is truly considered the microcosm of Caribbean Aviation. There are hundreds of islands that can be connected and the economy of dozens of these islands could be advanced, be it related to tourism, real estate, or social community development. The business Incubator effort may solidify achieving a prosperous, and sustainable future for all islands.

When thinking of the future of aviation, the development of air taxi service with eVTOL aircraft (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) comes to mind. Vertiports, which are the special locations and facilities for them to land are needed. It falls in the category of advanced inter-island air mobility. Electric aircraft need electricity. Electricity can be generated by using hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen fuel can be generated for the seawater around the islands. 

There may be interesting opportunities for start-ups in that particular field. New services are needed and so are businesses providing these services. Innovative ventures and break-through initiatives can be developed in business incubators. Because these start-ups really advance services that are a must internationally, they can contribute to the export economy. In this air mobility case one can dare to say that the sky is the limit. 

Not just some young talented persons will get the chance of their life. Also spirited members of an earlier generation may be able to get an operation going. With regards to the latter, an old fox knows more tricks to get a rabbit out of a hole than a puppy with a degree. Degrees? An incubator could also cooperate and be associated with a university research center.

When a business incubator is available, such facility may typically have space to accommodate several startups. The individual units may be furnished. Telephone connections through a central system. WIFI signal throughout the building. Central secretarial services. In principle one facility administration takes care of it all, including things like hiring services ranging from cleaning to accounting. 

Management training could be included in the incubator concept. It will be a truly professional and motivating environment to operate in. The young and new pioneers may lack some experience in running an operation, like marketing, accounting, or other expertise. Appropriate workshops will provide new skills to support their new business activities.

There will be several start-ups with different services sharing the same location. The incubators could foster cooperation or joined activities. The model of the Incubator can be shaped to the needs of particular professional needs or a certain group of startups.

Is the rest of the Caribbean now missing out on something? Maybe, maybe not. The idea of a Business Incubator is not new. Some programs have popped up or tried to pop up.  But none of them seem to have the potential that the Bahamas has right now to become the leader of new business development projects that can have a significant impact not only on its own nation but also on the wider region and even internationally. 

In 2009, The World Bank group initiated a Caribbean Business Incubator Association that was launched by representatives from 10 independent Caribbean countries. It was in the line of thinking being a part of a CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The Association became dormant due to lack of funding. Accelerate Caribbean was created in 2014 by the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean. It met the same fate just two years later.  There are some projects like CARIRI in Trinidad or REVUP in Jamaica. There are a few virtual incubators. But virtual is not hands-on. 

Unemployment rates in the region are too high, especially among young people. There is no such a thing as opening up a can of jobs. In some cases, efforts are made to provide extended education. However, how does having another education certificate help, if one is still not able to find employment, because jobs are just not available. 

There is a distinct difference between providing a job and keeping people entertained for another one or two years with additional education. It is meant well, and the basic thinking behind it is not wrong but it is not creating jobs. Jobs are created by businesses. Incubators are catalysts to create those businesses and for economic development.  They are part of the solution to encourage self-employment first. When the new operation grows, it will have a multiplying effect and provide employment for others. 

Caribbean territories should focus more on the potential of entrepreneurs as drivers of economic growth and playing an important role in job creation. There is no specific geographic location in terms of where bright minds or innovative entrepreneurs can be found.

Business Incubators can be shaped for any need or size. They could be as big a technology park. Let’s not go too far though with our imagination and keep both feet on the ground considering where we are. But then again, when reaching out for the stars, one will not end up with a hand full of mud.  So…, let’s get going here.



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