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Understanding the Caribbean Enterprise: Insights from MSMEs and Family Owned Businesses

Available data suggest that family owned business and MSMEs account for up to 70% of private sector employment in the English speaking Caribbean.  In turn, this indicates that the performance of these economies will hinge significantly on the fortunes of these enterprises given that recent flows of FDI to the English speaking Caribbean have been below that recorded for the America’s. This has implications for public policy and should spark the interest of private sector groups that seek to adopt measures to facilitate their growth, modernisation and development; with an emphasis on fostering a culture of productivity and competitiveness.

The recently published book titled Understanding the Caribbean Enterprise: Insights from MSMEs and Family Owned Businesses, by Drs. Nicholson (MSBM, Mona) and Lashley (SALISES, Cave Hill) represents the first systematic attempt to develop a profile of both types of enterprises across the region.  The book provides valuable insights about current issues facing MSMEs and FOBs in the English-speaking Caribbean and thus represents a useful resource for private sector groups and policy-makers, as well as researchers and students with an interest in the relationship between firm ownership, size and performance.  Issues examined include continuity, succession, financing and marketing. 

In addition to historical-cultural idiosyncrasies, the book is significant in capturing the nuances and characteristics of the English Speaking Caribbean.  Historically, much of the discussions on MSMEs and FOBs has been dominated by experiences drawn from North America, where the financing and market development of these businesses are said to be more sophisticated, and therefore, different from the reality of the Caribbean.

The book is informed by two main datasets, viz (1) data collected from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago using questionnaires and focus groups; and (2) data from an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded survey on firm level information, across most of the Caribbean countries, including those in the English-speaking Caribbean.  Among the major findings highlighted in the book are: (i) Historically, people of African ancestry do not start businesses for wealth creation, but to “take” their children through school, (ii) Succession planning across ethnic groups follows a “moment-in-time” approach, rather than being process oriented, and (iii) A number of women-owned businesses (WOBs) are labelled family-owned businesses (FOBs), for various reasons, one of which is to protect and keep the family intact.

The book reflects an ongoing thrust at the UWI in general, and the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) in particular, to conduct and publish research that is relevant to businesses and policy-makers across the region.


For more information about this body of research, contact:

Lawrence A. Nicholson, PhD – Lecturer, Mona School of Business & Management, UWI, Mona.  (876) 881-8378.

Johnathan G. Lashley, PhD – Fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI, Cave Hill. (246) 266-3326.

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