Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Guyanese lead the way in researching Caribbean businesses

(First published in The Guyana Gazette on 15th January 2006)

A former Guyanese journalist and publisher 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 examines firms using a sectoral model. Dr. Christopher Johnson, who worked with the Guyanese media in the early 1980s and later published the acclaimed `Young Blood’ magazine series, began researching the impact of Caribbean firms on the global economy over a decade ago.

He was the second Guyanese-Caribbean national to be awarded the Nuffield Commonwealth Press Fellowship to Cambridge University for his outstanding contribution to print journalism and editorship. Later, he earned an MBA in Marketing Management and PhD in Business Management at London and Scottish tertiary institutions respectively. In between his extensive studies, Hansib Publishers commissioned Dr. Johnson to write weekly articles and features on successful Asian, Caribbean, African-American and Latin American personalities, as well as on wide-ranging issues affecting their respective continents and regions worldwide. He also wrote the authorised biography, Journey Through Life, of the first Caribbean-born Mayor of a London Borough, Randolph Beresford, BEM, MBE and much later, was instrumental in researching two landmark books - How They Made a Million: The Dyke and Dryden Story and Black Enterprise in Britain - both authored by pioneering businessman and community leader, Tony Wade, MBE.

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 and delivered lectures on areas diverse such as Business English, The Caribbean SME Sector, Single Market Economy, Conflict Resolution Techniques, Marketing, Financial Management, Corporate Governance, Social Entrepreneurship and Civic Leadership Responsibility and Multicultural Societies.

His MBA dissertation examined the impact of an economic union of the Caribbean in the 21st century, while his doctoral thesis analyzed 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, but equally, great prospects if we can only work together to ensure that there is a collective convergence of the various national economies in the Caribbean. Opportunities in particular for increased trade and open market access are but a few of the many options. Of course, this regional instrument will no doubt strengthen our regional institutions of governance and enable the Caribbean to demonstrate its potential to be a real trade market player – both 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 emphasized the necessity for 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 Caribbean 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 analyze 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 emphasized 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).

“It would be very interesting to observe how this book will help shape the way Caribbean firms are viewed by mass institutions and agencies and its corresponding effect on the academic community's understanding of how Caribbean people, through creativity and innovation, have pursued (and still are) relentlessly, various enterprise initiatives to compete, thereby aiding and abetting the gradual creation of a more levelled playing field in the international market province of ideas, products and services.”

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