JAMAICA should turn its attention to emerging markets if it is to experience any substantial growth in exports, says Patricia Francis, the executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Continents such as Africa that have a young, educated population, natural resources and emerging cities provide long-term growth opportunities, but only if Jamaica is willing to recognise the differences in the market and adapt, the former JAMPRO president said at the Jamaica Exporters' Association breakfast forum on Wednesday.
The island's traditional export markets offer limited opportunities, the Brazilian ambassador to Jamaica, Antonio da Costa e Silva Neto, agreed, noting that Latin America offers "very positive" growth opportunities.
But to break into new markets and compete globally, Francis said, exporters have to adopt strategies undertaken by multinational companies like General Electric (GE) that identify opportunities in underserved and inefficient markets.
Africa's low electrification rate and an eight per cent average demand growth for electricity per year, for example, provide GE with lucrative business opportunities, she said.
"They [GE] go in and partner with countries to expand the electrical capacity of Africa," she said. "They go to the governments with solutions and say, 'we'll put in the electricity, you give us the tariffs, and we will expand'."
The development of the Jamaican economy also depends on partnerships.
Although GraceKennedy is considered a large company in Jamaica, when it comes to international trade, it is a small company, Francis said.
"So medium-sized companies in Jamaica are micro on a global scale. If they are going to target the world, there is no way they will [be successful] without working together," she said.
If any significant growth is to be achieved the private sector also has to collaborate with the Government, said JEA's President Vitus Evans.
Attracting more investments and creating more jobs can be readily achieved using an export-led strategy, but only if more targeted support is provided to the sector, he said.
Francis said that she is the sole reason for the ITC's continued work in the island. "The pace at which Jamaica works, unfortunately, is dead, slow and stop," she said.
"In the time that we have been working with Jamaica, we have moved in Ghana and Nigeria. They have moved ahead at light speed," she said.
"We are dealing with a world competition. We have got to play the game and we've got to arm ourselves."