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Encouraging small business in Haiti

Haiti, June 1, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Karl Grobl for NetAid  </span>
    Less than one percent of Haiti's small business owners are formally trained in their areas of operation. Photo: Karl Grobl for NetAid

Although I've sort of always known that one day I would come to work in Haiti, January 12 made me realize that the time was now.

I lost a dear friend of mine in the earthquake, to whom I had promised to come to Haiti. I had no choice but to keep my word and change the course of my life.

Nothing had ever made more sense to me than on March 4, when I moved to Haiti to take the position of Mercy Corps' Economic Recovery Program Manager. I wanted to come to Haiti to have an impact, not just be another aid worker. Equipped with a Master's degree in Chinese and Business and strong international experience in both the humanitarian and private sectors, I was looking for a role that would best suit my skills set. The need to do things differently and think outside the box attracted me to Mercy Corps, which has such a strong reputation for innovation.

Today, my work in Haiti touches many areas. The support of small and medium enterprises (SME) is particularly fascinating. Mercy Corps Haiti is in the process of developing a range of solutions to support this as-yet highly informal growth sector, which is nonetheless engine of Haiti's economy.

Because less than one percent of SME owners are formally trained in their areas of operation, we are planning vocational training support. Because access to credit is a strong impediment to growth, we are planning to set up an investment facility. Because the provision of business development services is lacking, we are planning to bring MicroMentor to Haiti. Because SME start-ups are highly neglected, we are planning partnering with other programs to set up business plan competitions, as well as training on writing and pitching skills.

But SME — which includes the Job creation program supported by our MPower initiative — is only one of the areas Mercy Corps is working on for Haiti's economic recovery and development. My team will keep you updated on our progress.