IDPADA-G hosts 2-day exhibition with calls for greater support to small businesses

Amid calls for greater financial and institutional support for small businesses here, the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G) on Thursday opened its second Ujamaa Exhibition and Sale on Main Street, between Middle and Church Streets.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Ms Jane Miller, trying on a necklace at Ujamaa 2.0 on Thursday

The event is seen as the biggest African exhibition to date. The two-day exhibition and sale, called “Ujamaa 2.0”, promotes and caters to more than 90 African Guyanese businesses in arts and crafts, agro-processing, self-care, home décor, African fashion (clothing and jewellery), and much more.

A representative of Nadia’s Craft Shop showcasing items

‘Ujamaa’ – a Swahili word meaning ‘Cooperative Economics’, is the fourth Principle of Kwanzaa, and calls on people of African descent to support our businesses and share in work and wealth. The principle of Ujamaa promotes self-reliance, rejects exploitation, and engages in cooperation for the community’s common good.

A vendor displaying jewellery at Ujamaa 2.0 on Thursday

At a simple opening ceremony, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Olive Cannings-Sampson noted that Ujamaa was chosen as the motto and guiding principle of the exhibition and sale as it speaks to cooperative action for economic progress.
“Ujamaa 2.0 also expresses the sentiments and aspirations that fill us today as we approach Emancipation. Emancipation has been, and must continue to be, a time when we reflect on, and learn from, our history. The pain of the past guides us and reminds us that we seek healing, and we rededicate to work for a brighter future; a future our ancestors dreamed of, but never saw.”

The CEO told the audience of diplomats, educators, entrepreneurs, and media that Emancipation must inspire us with thoughts of our ancestors. “Their cooperative action led first to the cooperative purchase of abandoned plantations, and then the structuring and establishment of villages that became the foundation of our nation’s Local Government System. What a demonstration of entrepreneurial spirit that first purchase shows, and that is the entrepreneurial spirit that you see abiding here today and for the next week, and continually across Guyana,” she stated, as she pointed to the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that are demonstrated in vendors sharing a common space to engage in economic activity.
Professor Leyland Lucas, Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) at the University of Guyana, in brief remarks, said that African people have a proud history. He reminisced on the story of the Africans who pooled their resources to purchase Plantation Northbrook and established the village of Victoria as the basis for developing a very sustainable village economy, self-sustaining and providing the experience of being entrepreneurial.
“We are at a stage in our existence, not only as a people, but also as a society, where entrepreneurship has become extremely important. We are here to observe a number of entrepreneurial ventures, things that people and organisations have done, and have been brought together by IDPADA-G so that we can once again celebrate and demonstrate the entrepreneurial drive of Africans,” the Dean of SEBI said.
Professor Lucas reminded the audience that entrepreneurship has been an essential aspect of our lives, and committed the UG and SEBI’s continued commitment “to promoting and supporting entrepreneurial initiatives throughout Guyana.”
“We will continue to work with entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs in every way possible. But to create an entrepreneurial eco-system requires a number of players. I applaud the work of a number of players, such as the Small Business Bureau, but funding remains a critical aspect of entrepreneurial success. In other environments, I have raised this issue, and continue to raise it,” he said while asserting that more must be done to assist entrepreneurs.
“While support is available through certain organisations, more is needed to be done. We need to develop, in addition to that, organisations and entities that permit entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs to not only demonstrate their abilities, but have access to funding through new instruments, venture capitalists, and angel investors; and those things will require some action on the part of the authorities in this country,” Professor Lucas said, as he called for a revision of the banking laws so that cooperatives can engage in much greater opportunities for funding, and that financial institutions be created that are directly designed to support entrepreneurial ventures.
He congratulated IDPADA-G on its initiatives, while urging to be resilient the entrepreneurs who had gathered in their numbers on Main Street.
Similarly, Maxine Parris-Aaron, Agricultural Health Specialist at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), recognised IDPADA-G’s work and committed to IICA’s continued support.
Noting IICA’s four strategic objectives and its five hemispheric programmes, Mrs Parris-Aaron said they mirror the work and objectives of IDPADA-G.
“Consequently, IICA can complement the execution of IDPADA-G’s programme activities upon receipt of the request, and would be happy to facilitate the further empowerment of these and other entrepreneurs,” she said.
Professor Patsy Ann Francis, Executive Director of the Institute of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Guyana (UGIRIE), expressed well wishes to the entrepreneurs, and called for there to be economic cohesiveness.
Attendees included British High Commissioner Ms Jane Miller; Chile’s Ambassador to Guyana, Juan Manuel Pino Vasquez; representatives of the United States Embassy, the Canadian High Commission, the United Nations and other overseas Missions; the University of Guyana, the National Library, and civil society.