Axel van Trotsenburg, an economist and development expert with over 30 years of experience at the World Bank Group who was appointed Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, addressed the Regional Conference titled Digital Economy Moonshot for the Eastern Caribbean.
Axel stated; “We are very eager to work with you by offering strong financial and technical support.”
The two-day conference is taking place at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The two-day Digital Economy Conference has brought together policy makers and technical teams from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Montserrat, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as representatives of the World Bank, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), the OECS Commission and international companies. They are exploring ways to advance the services within the digital economy throughout the Eastern Caribbean. This consultative process will help inform an action plan for a regional project to be supported by the World Bank.
Chairman of CARICOM, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who was seated next to the Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, responded, saying, “We look forward to your strong support to the region, not just on the matter of digital development, but also with respect to climate change and other important developmental issues. We are committed to act, not just individually, but we are committed to act as a region. We have a single space, a treaty and a Central Bank in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. We also have one of the world’s strongest currencies, and this shows what working together can achieve. "
During her opening remarks, Tahseen Sayed, Director for the Caribbean Region at the World Bank said, “I am really grateful to Timothy Antoine, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank for not only igniting our excitement in the [World] Bank, but also leading the charge. This conference was organized thanks to Governor Antoine.”
Addressing the conference participants this morning, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank said, “When we look back at this conference 10 years from now, we will say this was a pivotal moment.”
An interesting point raised was that a digital economy moonshot for the Eastern Caribbean must include the education sector, which has the mandate of providing students with a high-quality education in order to prepare them to get good jobs.
“We have to ensure that the education sector is aligned with us in order for the Eastern Caribbean to achieve this moonshot,” Timothy Antoine, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank said today, adding that there needs to be a focus on “learning, as well as on the training and reorienting of our population.” Specifically, Mr. Antoine was addressing the importance of the education sector being aligned with the jobs, skills and workforce needs of the future.
Yesterday, the ECCB Governor noted that, “The major reason for poverty is lack of employment, especially for our youth. Those are real threats/risks for our survival going forward.” He added that there must be “a sense of urgency” on the critical issue of youth unemployment.
Another interesting point raised was that digital transformation is essential for the Eastern Caribbean’s survival – in particular the survival of key industries, such as agriculture.
In this regard, Tahseen Sayed, Director for the Caribbean Region at the World Bank mentioned the case of Bangladesh. Agriculture plays a vital role in Bangladesh’s economic growth. The Director for the Caribbean Region said, “Technology is really being used dramatically now by farmers.” Ms. Sayed added that there is a heavy reliance on apps.
The practice of app-based farming has modernized the industry, helping farmers to access a wide range of up-to-date information on weather patterns and other important trends that affect them and their livelihoods.