Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, speaking at the awards ceremony of the CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, UWI SEED Business Plan Competition, at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus. (Photo- UWI SEED Programme)

As economies like Barbados’ continue to grapple with wider economic development issues, one of the most critical roles a university must consider is how best to play its part in the development of the blue economy.

This was suggested by Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, on Wednesday, at the awards ceremony of the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, UWI SEED Business Plan Competition, at the 3Ws Oval of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

He said: “To my mind, a sustainable blue economy must combine governance, strategic priority and policy setting and investment with the simultaneous identification of socio-economic opportunities provided by the coastal and ocean resources.

“The Blue Economy, which is based on sound science is, therefore, well positioned to inform policy formation that can facilitate a multi-sectoral approach to coastal and marine ecosystem-based economic activities away from practices that are leading to environmental and ecosystem degradation. See the opportunities and not the challenges.”

Minister Sutherland further noted that the university, with its cadre of well-trained academic experts, was strategically positioned to strengthen blue economy opportunities by increasing the understanding of the complexities of the marine ecosystems and the intrinsic links to land-based activities. 

Pointing out that links existed, he said in an effort to build out this creative niche, as a means of fostering entrepreneurship, more sustainable use of marine and coastal resources by ocean nations like Barbados required the development of a suite of relevant tools.

“Among these must be that of marine spatial planning to identify and manage the opportunities and constraints that lie within Exclusive Economic Zones to inform policy formulation, adoption, and investment processes towards long-term environmental sustainability.

“Essentially therefore, national strategies and priority-setting exercises, including those employed by higher-learning institutions, such as UWI, are necessary to highlight the importance of healthy marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems, as there are intrinsically linked to opportunities for prosperity and economic growth,” he said.      

Minister Sutherland also stressed that UWI must continue to play a critical role in further developing the agro-entrepreneurship ecosystem as developing entrepreneurs within the agriculture sector had the potential to eliminate much of the burden of agriculture; create employment opportunities for rural youth; increase national income; and sustain industrial development in rural communities.

He applauded CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank for continuing to provide start-up capital to young entrepreneurs, and noted that government, through its Small Business Development Centre initiative would continue to ensure Barbadian entrepreneurs have access to “handholding” provided by this island’s SBDCs, and its partners such as the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, the Small Business Association and Fund Access.

Meanwhile, Director of Corporate Communications with the Bank, Debra King, in congratulating participants and saluting the partnership with UWI Cave Hill said: “This programme, as its name implies, has been planting and nurturing the seeds of entrepreneurship and enterprise in the lives of young men and women over the years of its existence.

“The development of the region’s youth and their entrepreneurial potential is one area that the bank keenly supports.  We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways of reaching out to our young people.”

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