Overshadowed and Underperforming, the Francophone Caribbean Looks to the Future

Emmanuel Joseph by Lakou Digital

“Recently we saw teleperformance announces a significant expansion of its investments in El Salvador. I was intrigued by what would make a company choose El Salvador over Martinique. Putting all the differences aside, I think there is a general misunderstanding in the market as to what we can offer,” added Joseph.

According to Teleperformance, the company employs more than 6,500 people in El Salvador and has been there since 2004. The saviour not only attracted teleperformance, but also leading companies such as Applaudo Studios and The office gurus also have operations in the Central American nation.

Joseph suggests that efforts made by El Salvador to attract more investment to outsourcing markets should be replicated by the French territories.

“We already have good infrastructure, the right time zone and the right place, but we should be able to incentivize to become more attractive. In many cases, we discourage investing in exactly the type of business we’re supposed to be bringing here,” Joseph said.

The success of major BPO/KPO destinations stems from their ability to bring out the right talent and nurture the kind of entrepreneurship that facilitates the export of services or in-demand business products. What are local authorities doing to boost tech entrepreneurship and digital exports?

Yoann Saint-Louis of Eye Consulting

“On islands like Martinique and Guadalupe, we don’t have a strong entrepreneurial mindset. In the past most people worked for the government administrations but now younger generations are coming back to the islands and want to start businesses. This has prompted the government to support this entrepreneurship in a meaningful way now,” said Yoann Saint-Louis, a consultant for the Guadalupe, Martinique-based company eye consultationwhich specializes in digital strategies.

Although Saint-Louis believes people on these islands could start a business with a “laptop and $100,” he also acknowledges that bureaucracy can be challenging at times. However, several government agencies and organizations have entrepreneurship support programs.

initiatives such as La French Techa program that started in France but also supports start-ups in its territories abroad, accompanying emerging companies and trying to offer them the support they need.

Local authorities in Martinique recently started Starsan initiative aimed at helping entrepreneurs to identify all the plans they can use at local, national and European level to start or develop their business.

Even when there are multiple government agencies supporting entrepreneurship, Joseph lacks coordination and resources.

“Most founders have to work for themselves without support. We have different institutions at different levels: federal, state and city administration, but in the end there is a lack of knowledge on this topic. It’s a question of mentality. We need people with the right mindset who believe that through these companies we can create jobs and make significant gains for our communities,” added Joseph.

The special case of Haiti

According to Saint-Louis, despite the small population of the “French West Indies”, the islands have a strong labor supply.

“We have a lot of good profiles here because a lot of people go to France, Belgium or Canada to study at top schools and then spend time in big companies in those countries. And unlike other Caribbean islands, many of these students are ready to return here. That’s an advantage,” said Saint-Louis.

“It’s a question of mentality. We need people with the right mindset who believe that through these companies we can create jobs and make significant gains for our communities.” – Emmanuel Joseph

Haiti is not in the same situation. The country continues to face a crisis of insecurity and ongoing political instability. However, there are some signs of cautious optimism about entrepreneurship and business opportunities in the country. Even Saint-Louis ran a small five-person call center in Haiti to help run one of his previous businesses.

Co-director of the Fondation CASELI Philippe Saint-Cyr

For the co-director of CASELI Foundation Philippe Saint-Cyr, Haiti’s conditions are unique and require greater effort to produce yields. Fondation CASELI is a Haiti-based foundation that manages startup incubators for Haitian entrepreneurs. The organization has programs with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and implemented by offices of the Haitian government.

“First, we try to help them understand the local needs and requirements so they can position their ideas properly after mastering the business fundamentals,” Saint-Cyr said.

But entrepreneurship and digital services still face various obstacles in Haiti. “It’s difficult for Haitian companies to do business abroad because foreigners view the purchasing power and capabilities of local companies negatively. This affects any potential to do business abroad,” added Saint-Cyr.

Apart from some programs like those of the Fondation CASELI, Haiti is still in a complicated situation. Internet penetration is very low and expensive, hampering prospects for digital exports and entrepreneurship, and electricity supply is unreliable in many parts of the country.

“Digitization in Haiti will continue to be difficult until these issues are resolved,” concluded Saint-Cyr.

Leave a Comment