Haiti Tech Summit 2019
June 22, 2019
Hello entrepreneurs, influencers, disruptors, accelerators, innovators, friends.
It’s an honor to be back with you at the Haiti Tech Summit this year seeing old friends and making new ones.
I want to extend our thanks to Decameron and Christian Fombrun for taking such good care of us!
I would like us all to recognize the tremendous grit and determination of the Haiti Tech Summit team (Christine, Einstein, Marc Alain, Daphnee, and so many more!)
Year after year, you succeed in creating an inspirational and enriching environment in which relationships can be launched and deepened and in which real progress can be achieved.
Like I said last night, I’m inspired. I’m inspired by the many innovative efforts you all are undertaking to expand business opportunities, ranging from Linked-In to Google, SAP to TechStars, and GitHub to MasterCard. Not only does the Haiti Tech Summit provide the country with a new angle of exposure, but budding young Haitian entrepreneurs gain invaluable access to important professional networks, frank advice, and amazing mentoring.
Thanks to Haiti Tech Summit, Haitian entrepreneurs now have access to global mentors. Haiti has world class creative and entrepreneurial talent, and we at the U.S. Embassy are so proud to be supporting that talent to strengthen economic growth.
Since the Haiti Tech Summit first launched, Airbnb signed a five-year agreement with the Ministry of Tourism, Facebook launched Haiti’s first internationally recognized developer community, and Google launched an accelerator program to source and support the country’s leading startups.That’s an amazing track record!
But like Christina said, and I paraphrase: “That’s all a what so no a so what.” So here’ the So What: This event brings together the established private sector, budding young entrepreneurs, and the “not for profit” community to find ways to collaborate, empower young entrepreneurs, and share and develop technological advancements. And that’s grass roots influencers, community activists and community role models too. So it is up to you – entrepreneurs, investors, and digital marketers — to determine what success stories we will be discussing next year at Haiti Tech Summit 2020.
Real private sector and social enterprise partnerships have been born here. Let’s apply tech strategies to maximize improvement in social well-being and environmental well-being to maximize real social impact. That’s the so what my friends. Let me give you an example.
When the White House announced the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) last February with its ambitious objective to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025 through U.S. government activities and public-private partnerships, we immediately began thinking about how we could work towards this goal in Haiti.
We’re so glad we met the inspiring Nzingah Owinsah of the Impact Hub Port au Prince and Kay Tita here at the Tech Summit last year. She wasn’t able to be here this year but this initiative moves forward. We’ve been able to partner with Kay Tita and we look forward to the Academy of Women’s Entrepreneurs which will take place September through December this year, here in Haiti through this partnership.
Similarly, it was right here at Tech Summit last year that we met a representative of Jamf, a company that helps schools, businesses, and government conduct business through an integrated Apple environment. Jamf has brought a fully-loaded Apple container to Haiti and are focused on educating Haitians from their very first days in school about integrating technology in Cite Soleil through partner Healing Haiti. So thank you Healing Haiti lead tech lead Ash Souffrant and Kenneth Dossous.
We’ve been proud to work with them and with many other civil society organizations to reach some of the very hard-working young entrepreneurs in some of the capital’s most challenging neighborhoods – Martissant, Belair, and Cite Soleil this Spring at Tech Camp Soley.
We’ve also witnessed a spike in how public-private ventures can work together. EPower stepped up to host a separate co-hort at Tech Camp Soley, effectively doubling our reach. And now, Healing Haiti volunteers will lend their talents at Sakala; the new Cite Soleil library will incorporate an entrepreneurship club run by CEDEL Haiti, and the partnerships keep growing.
Yes, there are many challenges across Haiti, but the expertise and passion which exist right here, right now are exactly the ingredients which catalyze new efforts, new partnerships, and new success stories. Deepening relationships with the diaspora, analyzing the business environment, and working to incentivize business investments in Haiti are priorities for us at the U.S. Embassy.
Our Economic/Commercial and Public Affairs team and I are optimistic about the future. Since the meeting of Caribbean leaders in March at Mar-a-Lago, we have seen an uptick in high level visitors including the CEO of OPIC, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. And last month, I was delighted to host OPIC CEO David Bohogian to sign a deal with the Haitian-American Fatima Group to finance a Marriott hotel in the northern city of Cap Haitian. By the way, Cap Haitian just concluded a Sister Cities agreement with New Orleans and will celebrate its 350th anniversary next year. Haiti has an amazing past and an amazing future and we’ve partnered with the Tourism Innovation Summit this year.
We are equally excited that the Inter-American Development Bank has extended a loan to the American-owned Plastech Company to expand its operations to include a recycling plant and to upgrade its onsite power generation. These are large, significant, and tangible deals that create jobs and pave the way for Haiti’s economic growth. That’s why we look forward to a close partnership with the forthcoming Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which launches in October.
The DFC will be the successor organization of OPIC, as established by the BUILD Act recently passed by the U.S. Congress. DFC will mobilize financing for development, with an investment cap that is more than double that of OPIC’s. I participated two weeks ago in the U.S. hosted “U.S. – Caribbean Business Conference” in Miami, and I’m pleased to share with you the room was packed and all the slots for private meetings with our U.S. Embassy Haiti Economic and Commercial team were over-subscribed. We at the embassy stand ready to support.
I wanted also to mention that we offer a range of Commercial Services and publish several annual reports that may be of interest, including a Commercial Guide to Haiti and the Investment Climate Statement.
We have a whole-of-mission approach to our highest priorities, and we understand that private enterprise is the most-powerful force on Earth for lifting people out of poverty, for reinforcing communities, and for building self-reliance.
Many of you are familiar with the work of USAID in this domain but I wanted to make sure you knew about the recently launched USAID Haiti INVEST platform, which will attract private capital and credit for small and medium sized enterprises across Haiti.
In Haiti, 90% of new jobs are created through Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, most of them informal, and the challenges to expansion are numerous. For the past decade, USAID/Haiti has reinforced its support to help underserved businesses and financial institutions work on the main challenges that hinder access to capital and access to credit. This has resulted in local micro-finance institutions and credit unions providing credit to over 12,000 micro enterprises to start or expand operations. This support also helped 90 SMEs to expand, generating over $110 million dollars in sales and creating more than 27,000 new jobs. Working closely with Haitian businesses, USAID has also provided vocational training as well as practical skills for the workplace and business management know-how.
And of course, technology is one of the key factors contributing to the rapid increase in financial inclusion. For example, we believe that Mobile Money can play an important role in helping underserved and unserved individuals and businesses access financial services to expand their economic opportunities and better their welfare.
USAID/Haiti and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation helped launched mobile money in Haiti in 2010, through a competition between the two principal mobile money operators at that time, Digicel and Voila. Since then, through a number of activities to expand financial inclusion, USAID is supporting the scaling of digital finance by working with the various actors in the ecosystem, the mobile network operators, financial technology companies, banks and nonbank financial institutions, advocacy groups and the regulatory authorities to expand the use of mobile money in Haiti. Again, I want to underscore that the Haiti INVEST project is USAID’s next phase of support for the expansion of SMEs. This innovative mechanism will engage local actors and Haitian diaspora to mobilize capital to support investment, job creation and inclusive economic growth.
So let’s look at how the Haiti Tech Summit can further social good and social purpose in a financially stable way. Social enterprises and businesses can and do provide income generation opportunities to help lift people out of poverty. Of course, each of you know that with all the interest and desire to do business and to do good in Haiti, the real challenge that holds partners back is the need for greater stability and security. Thus, we continue to provide U.S. capacity building for the Haitian National Police. Keeping Haiti’s citizens secure in their communities through civilian policing that respects human and civil rights is a key goal of our U.S. law enforcement development program.
I want to take a moment to give a shout out to other media partners: Forbes, Essence, Image TV, Influence Tree, Chokarella, the Haitian Times, Le Nouvelliste, and Radio Metropole and LoopHaiti – all of whom actively seek to promote the rising entrepreneurs from Banj, Vanou Creations, Terneus Enterprese, Chokolakay, ODPeint, Cash Mobile, and so many others. Makendy Smith, you are an amazing success story and role model.
We can all see that there are amazing stories to be told from Haiti – and we know our YLAI entrepreneurs from the Caribbean will be sharing their experiences here as well as we all seek to strengthen ties in the Caribbean region: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis.
But at the end of the day, while governments can help lay the foundations, it is you —
You, the entrepreneurs and innovators – who play an essential role in growing economies, including the U.S. economy, the Caribbean economy and Haiti’s economy. We believe in the power of entrepreneurship to promote social good, economic growth and prosperity and we at the U.S. Embassy will continue to encourage entrepreneurs and investors to create new opportunities for investment, partnership, and collaboration.
We also recognize that events like the Haiti Tech Summit drive a new and positive narrative for the country. We understand that increased economic prosperity –whether in the United States or in Haiti – depends on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Kounye-a mwen vle pataje kèk panse avèk nou, Jèn Antreprenè Ayisyen yo ke nou envite nan Haiti Tech Summit-la. Nou kwè nan nou anpil! Peyi Etazini envesti anpil nan nou. Nou fè nou konfyans. Mondy Pierre August, Welseau Jacques, James Taylor Louis, Dettia Denescar, Ordelus Odelin, Neucheda Oreus, Stephane Prophete, Sandyna Dandaire Jerome, Maryns-Starline Labossiere, Robine Alexis, Shella Jean-Francois, Terneus Stingley Delratensky, Vanessa Pierre-Louis, Alamy Jean-Pierre, Gregory Henderson Lefruit. Nou se Avni peyi Dayiti!
You are all the future of Haiti, each and every one of you young entrepreneurs.
So from all of us at the U.S. Embassy – Jeanne Clark, Kedenard Raymond, Alexis Nieves, Celia Milord, Romuald Zamy and Kisley Jeannot – We are proud to contribute to the Haiti Tech Summit as sponsors – so that creators and innovators like you from throughout Haiti and the Caribbean can foster ideas, build relationships, and take your business ventures and social enterprise ventures to the next level.
The Haiti Tech Summit Network is a vibrant and ever-growing community and the U.S. Embassy is committed to support this initiative.
And as I said last night to all of you who traveled here from Orlando, Miami, Fort Meyer, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, Upstate New York, New York City, Scottsdale Arizona, Los Angeles and White Bear Minnesota, I hope you’ll agree this is a good use of our taxpayer dollars to invest in Haiti’s future.
Let’s maintain the energy and vision fired up over this past weekend throughout the weeks and months ahead.
See you next year!