Investment promotion agencies in the Caribbean region are pushing for increased collaboration as a means of coping with competitive challenges and adding clout to the small countries they represent.

At the annual general assembly of the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (Caipa), held in Nassau, the Bahamas, in late November, member organisations reaffirmed the need to band together to compete in the global economy. There were differing opinions on how to do that, and on how to balance efforts to promote individual countries while still presenting a cohesive Caribbean region to the world.

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But the outgoing president of Caipa, Lestroy Samuel, who is also executive director of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority, stressed the importance of integration. “There is a very difficult road ahead but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said in an address to the conference.

He noted that most Caipa members are small agencies, with an average staff of 13 people, and said that was all the more reason to find support through a wider organisation. He also applauded member countries for doing a lot with limited resources. “Considering the small staffs and budgets of IPAs in the region, we have done remarkably well,” he said.

According to greenfield foreign investment monitor fDi Markets, the region saw a 34% increase in FDI project numbers in 2011 over 2010.
The Caipa secretariat has highlighted that site selectors tend to view the Caribbean region as a whole, before turning their attention to individual countries within it, and therefore strengthening the Caribbean as a recognised economic bloc and promoting the wider region could help boost investment.

Launched in 2007 and funded by the EU, Caipa was established as an umbrella association with the objective of enabling collaboration among Caribbean IPAs. Caipa’s membership represents 19 countries which include various islands states but also central and South American countries with Caribbean coastlines such as Belize, Guyana and Suriname.

Caipa cites as its remit branding of the region as an investment destination; leading investment promotion missions in target markets; providing technical assistance and capacity building for members; procurement of investor targeting and tracking software; overseeing the Caribbean Business Policy Dialogue; and conducting research, analysis and FDI data management programmes.