The trend has been clear for a few years now: North American companies’ demand for nearshoring services continues to increase at accelerated rates. In this context, Latin American and Caribbean providers and economies are set to benefit.
Some countries are making more waves than others. Costa Rica, a very well-established nearshore market, comes to mind. Colombia has also emerged as a preferred destination of companies looking for robust government incentives, talent pools and growing outsourcing capabilities.
The downside of all of this attention is that as competition rises, shortages of qualified workers become a huge headache. The good news for investors and companies looking to expand into the region is the untapped potential of certain markets in Central America and the Caribbean.
Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) is one of those countries with an unsaturated market that makes it ideal for expansion and growth. Just a few years ago, oil and gas were the stars of T&T’s economic narrative, but now the country is appealing to BPO investors. How have they done it? What are the key lessons behind the success factors for T&T?
These are four specific ways in which T&T has changed in the last 10 years and how BPO companies can leverage this success in the twin islands nation.
Rethinking Education and Upskilling
Oil and gas has been essential in boosting several cycles of growth for T&T’s economy. However, over the last few years, the country’s leadership properly understood not only the importance of diversification but the very trends that could build the economy of the future. In that economy, knowledge and innovation replace fossil fuels as indispensable long-term economic drivers.
Trinidad & Tobago has been rethinking its own energy consumption and how to favor renewable energy sources going forward. As the prices of commodities continue to heavily fluctuate, it’s only natural to try to expand steady and innovative sources of economic growth.
Trinidad & Tobago is one of those countries with an unsaturated market that makes it ideal for expansion and growth
The question was simple: How to provide your workforce with the skills of the future? T&T’s educational system has incorporated new curriculum at various levels. More importantly, the country is becoming a leader in academia-industry partnerships.
Last year, Nearshore Americas covered the association between the California-based augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) company Eon Reality and the University of West Indies (UWI) Open Campus. The university received a US$25 million grant to launch an interactive digital lab. The lab and resources developed by this initiative are already being used to train students in the skills needed by industry.
The potential benefits for sectors such as tourism and BPO are obvious, and this is just one of many initiatives. T&T’s academia is demonstrating a flexibility and willingness to work with industry that is uncommon in other markets.
BPO companies plan to establish offices in university campuses, offering part-time jobs for students, which contributes to in-house training and erases some of the classic divide between theory and practice. This is significant as even when companies find potential workers, they sometimes don’t have the right skills. By incorporating this fluid aspect in training and hiring practices, employers dissipate some of the fears of talent shortages.
Telecommunications & Digital Infrastructure Development
Recently, at the ARIN/CaribNOG Technical Community Forum, an event partially organized by the Caribbean Network Operators Group, experts as well as leaders in the private sector asked the region’s policy makers to urgently strengthen Internet infrastructure in the Caribbean.
Without the right investments and policies, Caribbean economies risk falling behind one more time by losing the edge that robust digital infrastructure provides. Trinidad & Tobago is also focusing on this area.
A few years ago, the country didn’t have a Ministry for Digital Transformation, which is now exclusively in charge of facilitating training and infrastructure to maintain T&T’s economy competitive and attractive. New progress with e-government tools, 5G networks and forward looking policies are allowing T&T’s economy to develop broader technological capabilities in order build resiliency and productivity.
Perfecting the Art of Investment Attraction
Despite its challenges, the Caribbean remains a competitive marketplace for investment attraction. Trinidad & Tobago, through its investment promotion agency InvesTT, has been successful in attracting investors.
This hasn’t always been a straightforward process and it’s only been possible by a particular understanding of investment trends in the region, significant stakeholder engagement and analysis of the attributes of the competition.
Perfecting the art of investment attraction requires one thing: constantly modifying the policies that don’t work or fully provide the expected results.
Above all, perfecting the art of investment attraction requires one thing: constantly modifying the policies that don’t work or fully provide the expected results. A few years ago, T&T had a corporate tax free regime that did not bring the desired benefits for the country’s economy. Now, with a more targeted system that goes through Special Economic Zones, T&T will be able to offer more competitive advantages and incentives to foreign investors.
The Next Generation of Innovation
The work is not done by simply catching up with the industries driving growth today. It is also about developing the economic sectors of the future.
Entrepreneurship and innovation now look different in Trinidad & Tobago; from progress in agrotech that is allowing the country to grow strawberries in the middle of the Caribbean climate, to the desire to build a fintech ecosystem in the twin islands. The gig economy popping up in the country is also opening the way to incredible innovations.
Entrepreneurship and innovation now look different in Trinidad & Tobago
The question now is whether venture capital is available for the country’s entrepreneurs. Latin America and the Caribbean are having an exciting moment in terms of venture capital investment. Just in 2021, around US$15 billion went to the region’s startups, pushed by a wave of investment led by important firms such as Softbank. But most of this money stayed in countries like Brazil and Mexico; the Caribbean’s startups didn’t receive nearly as much.
Trinidad & Tobago, which now has considerably more startups than ten years ago, could be one of the beneficiaries of significant venture capital investment if the Caribbean starts receiving more attention in this area.