Entrepreneurship and Business Development in Mesoamerica - EDEM

Mesoamerican Chambers drive economic development in Covid 19 times

June 21, 2020

On May 14th, the "Initiatives to support businesspeople and entrepreneurs in times of crisis" Round table was held virtually and through the Meet platform. This event was promoted by the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC-Colombia) and the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota, in which the partner Chambers of the EDEM Project participated as speakers, presenting the strategies adopted from their position, to help the business community overcome the current situation and look for alternatives to promote economic development.

The event started with the intervention of Angela Ospina de Nicholls, General Director of APC-Colombia, who highlighted the importance of this exercise with these words: "what you have in mind is to support the entrepreneurs and businesspeople of our countries, which are perhaps the most affected segment of the population with this crisis. In all our countries, micro, small and medium enterprises, including large industries, are bearing a very large burden of tension, because their role is to sustain the economy of our nations."

She also invited the Chambers to take this moment as a time for reflection on the role that each of them plays as a leader for their community. And she encouraged them to continue providing that support in all business issues, so that businesspeople and entrepreneurs can enter new markets and enrich their path with experiences and knowledge that will help them meet the challenges ahead.

The discussion was an enriching moment for the participants, while the Chambers showed that they have very good initiatives in place to support their stakeholders and encourage innovation, resourcefulness and creativity of those who benefit directly from their services.

The Chamber of Commerce of Bogota, in addition to virtualising all the course formats they have always offered, launched permanent consulting services through online media, re-launched a virtual business center that hosts nearly 2.000 companies and, to date, about 3.300 business appointments have been made through this medium. They also re-launched a platform for the world of companies that are in the B2C, a commercial or e-commerce showcase that has around 300 companies, a little more than 3.500 products and a number close to 40.000 unique monthly users who visit the page.

The Chamber also emphasised a domestic violence prevention programme that it launched through its best known School Reconciliation Programme called "Hermes" to protect children in their homes and mitigate situations of stress, frustration and hopelessness. It also mentioned the accompaniment of businesspeople in the protocols of economic reactivation.

For its part, the Chamber of Commerce and Services of Nicaragua has created guidelines and protocols for the prevention of contagion within companies, educational videos related to the current situation, and twenty social network campaigns, such as #DeVosDepende and #UnidoscontraCovid19. They have also launched workshops and online conferences.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tegucigalpa also took part in the round table, and is committed to active participation in working groups with the government and other sectors. They have managed grant funds for early response in the reactivation of micro and small enterprises, as well as for the expansion of the installed capacities of the Digital Manufacturing Laboratory.

They are also working with the "Terra te Impulsa" platform, which is a commercial showcase for many micro and small businesses, at no additional cost. Similarly, they incorporated another online trade fair called "Feria Virtual Honduras Consume Local" to promote the consumption of products offered by entrepreneurs in the country.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of El Salvador also presented initiatives such as virtual legal advisory services focused on labour law, working tables to address queries from entrepreneurs, a catalog on the microsite and to share through digital media, companies that offer their services at home and companies that have inputs for biosafety and occupational safety. Additionally, they have accelerated a virtual training plan that has included three or four webinars per week and that aims at creating a complete e-learning platform, to cover topics of interest and demand of the private sector, such as: business continuity, human resources and personal finances, among others.

Another of the partner chambers is the Chamber of Commerce of Cartagena, which showed approaches with the Cluster of Competitive Maintenance, to support the manufacturing and marketing of medical equipment and elements. They also activated several tools, such as the "Domicilio Seguro" ("Safe Address"), a complement to the "Directorio Virtual de Domicilios" ("Virtual Address Directory") where more visibility was given to the restaurant sector. Another point was the creation of a "Crisis Management" module to launch a work plan with entrepreneurs, and support to one hundred entrepreneurs through the MISE Programme with interventions in finance, business strategy, marketing and sales. The development of the virtual business services portfolio and the creation of educational capsules in the area of social and cultural entrepreneurship.

And finally, the Chamber of Commerce of Palmira, which, given the current situation, managed with the help of partners the transition of its face-to-face training modality to a virtual one, and also created "marathons" of weekly topics, through webinars and video chats. They structured the MISE Programme and called it a "Reactivation MISE", turning everything it covers -i.e. training, workshops and advice- into online media, in order to ensure continuity in the learning process of their entrepreneurs. Within the framework of a partnership with the Palmira City Council, they are building an online platform for all their virtual training.

This round table was a space that made it possible to see how these entities are sponsoring the business and entrepreneurial sector, through alliances with other public or private entities, to change the way they provide their services and use all the technology possible, to continue training them, to provide them with special advice in the current situation, to promote innovation, creativity and reinvention among their businesspeople and to set out a work plan for them even when the crisis ends. Undoubtedly, the experience gained by these entities under the EDEM Project has been enriching and today, it has allowed them to have clearer processes and to act with greater assertiveness.