Rural youths being groomed as entrepreneurs

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 15, 2015

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RENEWABLE energy company Gennex has partnered with Trelawny-based Kimroy Bailey Foundation to assist less fortunate rural youths in becoming entrepreneurs.


The partnership has so far trained and certified four individuals in the manufacturing of solar-powered lanterns, during a two-day workshop at the University of Technology, Jamaica, earlier this week. Upon completion of the programme, each participant was assisted in packaging their products which will then be sold to individuals in their communities.


Thereafter, the young entrepreneurs are expected to gain enough capital to start manufacturing their own products to continue the business. Additionally, the trainees are able to buy the manufactured products from the Kimroy Bailey Foundation at a discounted price to aid in the growth of the business.


Nathaniel Peat, chief executive officer (CEO) of Gennex stated that the company will monitor the progress of the participants, after which an analysis will be done to assess the viability of the programme.


"There is a great demand for solar-powered products in the rural areas and so we have handpicked these individuals who are financially challenged, [and who did not have access to advanced education] to learn how to manufacture solar products so that they can start a business," Peat told the Jamaica Observer.


"We found that persons from the rural areas are more aware of the issues occurring in their communities and when you are cognisant of the reality that you don't have much power, you have a greater passion for the product and you will be highly motivated to use it and to sell it," he said.


"The potential here is great, because it is going to take some time and money for JPS to get into some rural communities," Peat added.


He told the Caribbean Business Report that he has received assistance from the Digicel Foundation and the Jamaica National Building Society, but needs more partners to come on board to train more individuals.


"The more cash we get, the more resources we have, and in kind the university has loaned us a room and the equipment to use to get the programme running," he stated.


Gennex, which is supported by United Kingdom-based Virgin Media Pioneer Platform, started operations in Jamaica in 2011 and sees the country as the ideal location for the manufacturing of solar products. Currently, the company is focusing on the production of solar charges, lamps and home lighting systems which, according to Peat, can provide electricity to as many as three rooms.


"You can see that this is able to charge a phone or tablet," Peat told his students after demonstrating that the home lighting system, placed against a window reflecting the sun's glare, powered a cellphone. "Now, imagine if you were a farmer in Portland and you have no power on the farm; with this product you are able to charge your phones or switch on a bulb," he said.


The use of a hybrid panel in the lighting system allows more energy to pass through, even in partly cloudy conditions, and creates more focus for the photon energy to generate electrical current, according to Peat.


He is eyeing an assembly plant in Jamaica by 2020 and is also looking to expand his operations into Haiti. Currently, Gennex only supplies small solar-powered equipment because of limited storage space and heavy investment costs.


"Long term, we are looking at beginning some type of assembly that will lead to manufacturing, so we are trying to engage the right type of partners and people that can help that to happen," he said.


"Ideally, we want Jamaica to begin manufacturing because it is located in a perfect spot for export to Haiti, where 92 per cent of that country does not have any electricity at the moment; even into South America, Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean," Peat added.


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