AFRICANGLOBE – Black Jamaicans need to create a culture of business ownership similar to the Chinese and Indians, reasoned scientist and business owner Dr. Henry Lowe.
Another guest speaker, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, compared Jamaica to the ‘Asian Tigers’, indicating that the island’s advantage lies in its creativity.
Both men were addressing contestants and young business owners at the launch of The Innovators, a business reality TV series set to start its fifth season on June 15 on TVJ in Jamaica and 18 other countries in the Caribbean and North America.
The function also honoured organisations deemed supportive of entrepreneurship.
“Most of the Black population never saw themselves as being business people. If you doubt me, go back and read the literature. It was always about being a civil servant or a professional like a doctor or lawyer, and that’s it,” Dr Lowe told the audience in delivering the keynote presentation on Wednesday night at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort & Spa, an entity controlled by Dr. Lowe.
“I have brains so I will [go] for the professions, but wealth creation is not a part of me,” he quipped.
The series will aim to improve each of the 10 participating businesses. Yaneek Page doubles as host and executive producer along with co-host Gary Matalon. The show’s first season aired in 2012.
“What is going on now with The Innovators is revolutionary. If we continue along this line, then the Black population will change. I say this not out of any racial identification. But you look at the attitude of the Chinese population in business. They are even doctors and some may be lawyers and engineers, but it’s all about business. Not like us who work for a salary. Then you look at the Indian population and it’s the same thing. They are from a culture of this sort of thing and we do not have this culture,” said Dr. Lowe.
The issue of business and race in the island has led to academic research. One such study includes The Succession Planning in Ethnic Family-Owned Businesses: Evidence from Jamaica by Lawrence Nicholson, DA Williams, and Maxine Garvey.
Dr. Lowe, also known for his business ventures built on patents from marijuana and cancer research, added that ideas must be converted into innovation and entrepreneurship.
“A lot of us regard ourselves as innovators. But as far as I am concerned you have just touched on entrepreneurship. Because unless that innovation is used to create wealth then you have not completed your innovation,” he said, adding that entrepreneurship should create jobs and additional wealth.
Later in his presentation Dr. Lowe lauded the informal commercial importers (ICIs).
“Some of us might knock them, but those people started off by finding a solution. Because they couldn’t send their children to school and they did their research,” he said adding that some ICIs began exporting. “The yams, bananas and escallion — that is what they started exporting and they made hundreds of thousands of dollars and many of these persons were able to buy homes in Cherry Gardens and educate their children and so on…Those people are legends… because they saw a problem but also opportunities.”
Dr. Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, described as the conceptualiser and primary developer of the Caribbean’s first GPS navigation system, will serve as a mentor for The Innovators fifth season. He urged the participants to continue creating and innovating.
“In a lot of Asian societies, the nail that stands out gets hammered. I should know. I am half-Singaporean, I have a tiger mom. So those types of pressure to succeed exist but without creativity. It is something that the Asian tigers don’t have. It’s something that we have in Jamaica in spades. We need to celebrate that,” said Dr Lyew-Ayee, who is a geologist and the director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute of the University of the West Indies.
By: Steven Jackson