With the COVID-19 pandemic posed to stretch on through 2021, countries across the Caribbean are struggling to cope with its economic impacts.
Many of the region’s economies—countries like Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts—are almost entirely reliant on tourism. This is problematic, especially during times of global turmoil, as it exposes them to economic shocks.
As the pandemic spread and travelers stayed home, these states saw revenues plummet and businesses scramble, with many forced to shut down or lay off most of their employees. The World Bank projected in June that the Caribbean’s tourism-dependent economies will see GDP contract by 3.1% in 2020.
Though some states, like St. Lucia, are able to provide citizens with income relief through national insurance programs, this relief isn’t likely to last. Others, like Dominica, are now leaning heavily on their limited domestic agriculture industries. But in Dominica, tourism still accounts for as much as a third of its GDP and the government will need to find innovative ways to adapt its economy.
“There is no denying that the current global pandemic has severely impacted the tourism-dependent and indebted economies of the Caribbean,” said Jamaican Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke recently. “This unprecedented event requires an unprecedented response.”
Caribbean nations are finding it difficult to cope with economic shocks in part due to inadequate education and a lack of opportunities beyond the tourism sector. Foreign investment may be able to provide much-needed growth and support—the unprecedented response that could help revive Caribbean economies.
Many states in the Caribbean have developed programs that offer citizenship to foreign investors, through the citizenship by investment (CBI) program, as a way to shore up direct investment and improve their ability to compete in the global market.
At least 193 countries around the world offer some type of citizen or residence for investment programs. St. Kitts became the first country in the Caribbean to offer a direct path to citizenship through investment in 1984. In Grenada, which launched its CBI program in 2013, the process takes around two months.
One of these initiatives is Akros Global, led by sustainable development entrepreneur Soren Dawody. Building off a track record of real estate investments and development projects, Dawody has also led several ventures with foreign investors in small economies. His Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture initiative, for example, has established a sustainable aquaculture farm and is on track to produce over 8,000 tons of high-quality shrimp and fish products per year.
Akros Global is an immigration consultancy working to drive economic growth through citizenship by investment, in which investors agree to invest a minimum amount in designated business ventures in return for citizenship. The firm works to support local economies by bringing in vital foreign investment needed for sustainable development.
Amid COVID-19, these programs are becoming increasingly crucial for states in the Caribbean that need to diversify their economies in order to progress. Thanks to CBI programs, entrepreneurs are now working to support Caribbean societies and help them reshape their fragile economies.
In Grenada, the governor-general and head of state, Dame Cécile La Grenade, told the parliament in early October that investment is a key priority for the government. With its CBI program, Grenada has seen a steady rise in net foreign direct investment in recent years, from $60 million in 2010 to $154 million by 2018.
But this is far from enough. Though Grenada has a GDP per capita of nearly $11,000, without tourism revenue, the World Bank projects that Grenada will be the worst-hit nation in the Caribbean. Its GDP is estimated to contract by 9.6% in 2020, putting thousands of people out of work.
As Caribbean states like Grenada are searching for solutions, Akros Global is connecting them with investors. As with Dawody’s other ventures, Akros Global focuses on effective altruism, emphasizing investment with a social conscience and an impact-driven approach. For Dawody, each project must create some sort of broader social benefit for the community, building a healthier and more resilient society.
For investors, programs like those at Akros Global offer support for strategic growth. Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture, for instance, has a 100% success rate in securing citizenship for its investors, facilitating their integration into the local economy.
The Akros Global CBI initiative is grounded in altruism and philanthropy, facilitating foreign direct investment in countries that are most in need. Dawody’s many initiatives in the Caribbean help build a network of social enterprises that strengthen local economies while also helping investors in their endeavors in the region.
With economies cracking under COVID-19, societies across the Caribbean are coming together to search for solutions. Citizenship by investment programs—like Dawody’s—offer a vital piece of the puzzle that will help the region weather the storm of the pandemic and get on the path to recovery.