Monday, January 23, 2006
A former Guyanese journalist and publisher, now a leading business management consultant, is at the forefront of researching the organisation and performance of Caribbean businesses. This ground-breaking work is the first of its kind, since it addresses firms using a sectoral model. Dr. Christopher Johnson, who worked with the Guyanese media and later published the highly acclaimed `Young Blood’ magazine series which won countrywide plaudits, began researching the impact of Caribbean firms on the global economy over a decade ago. He was the second Guyanese and Caribbean national to be awarded the Nuffield Commonwealth Press Fellowship to Cambridge University for his outstanding contribution to print journalism in Guyana. Later, he earned an MBA in Marketing Management and PhD in Business Management at London and Scottish Universities respectively. In between his extensive studies, he was commissioned by Hansib Publishers Limited to write papers on successful Caribbean citizens the world over. His constructive analyses attracted widespread interest among professional bodies, public, private and civic sector agencies, and he was invited to offer advice and support to small and medium-sized enterprises. He also tutored college and university students in areas diverse as Business English, Marketing, Financial Management and Corporate Governance. His MBA dissertation examined the impact of an economic union of the Caribbean in the 21st century, while his doctoral thesis analysed the performance of Caribbean businesses in the UK. He has since expanded his work in areas, lecturing on the importance of greater regional community participation in the Caricom Single Market Economy and publicising the contribution of Caribbean firms and social enterprises generally. “The CSME brings immense challenges and great prospects , and we need to ensure that there is a collective convergence of the various national economies in the Caribbean. Opportunities for increased trade and open market access are but a few of the many options. This economic instrument will also strengthen our regional institutions of governance and enable the Caribbean to demonstrate its potential as a genuine trade market player, intra and extra-regionally.”
Dr. Johnson has profiled hundreds of Caribbean firms and carried out reviews on numerous business and trade associations using a sectoral approach. He explained the importance of this approach. “It is important to locate Caribbean businesses in a much wider context than restricting their analysis to a purely Eurocentric or traditional method of investigation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these firms function invariably, quite differently to mainstream companies. Owners operate on an informal basis and they are more likely to be engaged in multiple enterprise activities even though their companies’ name may reflect a single product or service output. Solutions to problems such as lack of investment capital, poor premises and limited market intelligence, could only be resolved if an objective approach based on a sector-by-sector analysis is undertaken. As the saying goes, if the objective conditions do not exist, one has to either create them or appropriate them, bearing in mind that market forces are influenced both by consumers and suppliers alike and they in general terms, dictate the way how customs and values are coalesced in a global economy.”
The Guyanese business management specialist stated that most of the current economic literature tended to analyse Caribbean entrepreneurship through the microscope of culture, ethnicity, migration, politics and race. Issues such as market orientation, trade alliances, sectoral performance, network groupings, business planning and funding techniques, among others, are not emphasised sufficiently, thereby offering a more objective appraisal or evaluation of this sector of the global economy.
Dr. Johnson hopes that his book, which is due later in the year, will test the validity of several theories pertaining to the SME sector, the input of immigrant firms in developed societies, the challenges of the global economy and more importantly, the impact of Caribbean enterprises on regional economies, including the Latin America and the Caribbean Region that is working to achieve an eventual Free Trade of the Americas (FTA). “I would be very interested in observing how this book will shape the way Caribbean businesses are viewed by institutions and agencies worldwide, and also the effect it will have on the academic community in their understanding of how Caribbean people, through creativity and innovation, are pursuing relentlessly a variety of enterprise initiatives to compete in the global economy, thereby making room for a level playing field in the global market place of ideas, products and services.”