Is COVID-19 creating a new local entrepreneurial class?

Soon, an article we plan to publish in the Stabroek Business is an insightful exploration of the experiences of a handful of ‘new entrepreneurs’ who have sought to pursue either preferred ways of earning a living given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the the conventional labor market, or alternatively, has decided to embark on new business trips, presumably to supplement their existing income or alternatively, simply ‘for the benefit’ of undertaking a new adventure.

Outside of those we have had limited interviews with, many more are either entrepreneurial, or otherwise, in the process of exploring investment avenues that may appeal to them.

The first thing that should be said about these initiatives is that it took a complete transformation of our national circumstances for our new investors to ‘venture’; and while there is no exact place where the pandemic will take us, in the final analysis, it can be nothing but a positive development from which some measure of initiative and ingenuity has sprung from our circumstances.

Historically, it had been a kind of national understanding that Guyana had been favored with a limited business class and that the rest of us were content with being employees. That theory was, of course, always questionable, bearing in mind that small numbers of individuals and families who were not particularly well-placed had managed to break through the barrier and establish themselves in various entrepreneurial activities.

If no one seems to be quite sure about those factors that appear, over time, to have widened the national talent for entrepreneurship, what has been striking is the level of thought that has gone into choosing the investment niches that our new entrepreneurs have chosen.

This newspaper fondly remembers the establishment of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) at the University of Guyana. SEBI’s core mission, the University had informed, was to “educate and develop entrepreneurial and innovative leaders and managers with the skills, competencies, aptitude and habits of mind to contribute to the social vitality and economic development of the nation and the global community. . But his ambitions went beyond that. AS had made it clear that there is room in SEBI for a category of businessmen and women who we have tended to describe as hustlers, but who, having survived the rigors of what can often be a difficult environment , nonsensical of what, sometimes, pure, unspoiled ‘flat foot busy’ has ‘come through’. What SEBI said it was trying to do was apply a measure of entrepreneurial orthodoxy to the natural acumen of those ‘hustlers’, and while the jury may still be out on the outcome of SEBI’s ‘experiment’, the reality is the reality is, no doubt, a quantum shift in the national attitude to entrepreneurship. Necessity, it is often said, is the mother of invention and while it would churn, to say the least, for such discourse to lead to the assertion that COVID-19 is some kind of necessary evil, it would be foolish to deny the reality that the unhealthy after-effects of the pandemic have, in some cases, brought out the best in those who have been pushed into entrepreneurship through circumstances.

The question is, of course, where do we go from here? Are we likely to witness a retreat like you did when we finally killed a COVID-19 beast. Or will we take the current desire for entrepreneurship as far as it can go, building on what we have and creating a transformed entrepreneurial landscape.