The Hon. I. Chester Cooper, Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, headed a Bahamian delegation to Ottawa, Ontario in Canada on an intensive three-day trade mission last week, 1-3 Feb. Focused on the goal of seeking out investment opportunities toward advancing the country’s technology sector, DPM Cooper and his contingent held a series of meetings with the heads of leading technology firms located in North Kanata Technology Park, Canada’s largest technology and innovation hub.
Included among the delegation led by DPM Cooper were the Hon. Ginger Moxey, MP, Minister for Grand Bahama; the Hon. Zane Lightbourne, MP, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training; Wayde Watson, MP, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affair; Dr. Ian Strachan, Vice President of the University of The Bahamas (UB) and President of UB North Campus; Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna, Executive Director of the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) and senior executives from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Bahamas Investment Authority.
Remarking on the three-day trade mission to Ottawa, DPM Cooper said, “We are taking significant steps in pursuit of the Innovation and Technology sectors. This is to revolutionize the way we do business, but also to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, and a new industry in The Bahamas.”
The trade mission was organised by the Bahamas High Commission in Ottawa. Bahamas High Commissioner to Canada V. Alfred Gray explained that in the months leading up to the mission, the High Commission staff, led by First Secretary Nahaja Black, held meetings with industry leaders of North Kanata Technology Park and heads of tertiary institutions to showcase the mutual benefits that could be derived from forging a partnership with The Bahamas, a country that is in the mode of rebuilding and expanding its economy post-covid.
DPM Cooper said: “The companies we met with this past week have blazed trails in multiple sectors including innovation in artificial intelligence, computer automation and agri-technology. These firms are global in nature and are seeking new territories for further expansion. During our meetings, we highlighted the ease of doing business in The Bahamas, outlined the attractive incentives that our jurisdiction offers to investors and invited them to give consideration to setting up operations in The Bahamas.”
Additionally, DPM Cooper pointed out that a major change that Covid-19 has brought to the workplace in countries like Canada is a shift to remote work. “CEOs and HR Directors of many of the tech companies we met with indicated that The Bahamas figures high on their list as a desired destination from which their employees can work remotely. Much of our discussions centered around putting arrangements in place that would allow this to happen seamlessly.”
Highlights of the three-day mission trip included courtesy calls on Ottawa Government Officials; a tour of Kanata North Technology Park and a visit to Sanmina Corporation, a global electronics manufacturing services company; meetings with CEOs and Human Resource Executives of firms in the technology park to discuss elaborating an agreement that would allow members of their staff to work virtually from The Bahamas. The mission’s itinerary also took leaders in education among the delegation on a tour of Carleton University and Algonquin College where meetings were held with the institutions’ leadership to discuss ways to integrate technology in business, modalities of introducing technical programs earlier in high schools and opportunities for technical studies scholarships and internships for Bahamian students. Discussions were also held with Growcer, a promising investor in the agri-tech space, on advancing food security for The Bahamas and entrepreneurship opportunities in agriculture. The mission closed with a reception hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Cooper.
Minister Moxey in expressing her optimism about the trade mission said, “This trade mission to Canada came at a very opportune time, as we are seeking to revolutionize Grand Bahama’s economy with a focus on innovation.” She added, “Grand Bahama is well positioned to launch a tech hub, and the cutting-edge innovation we witnessed, along with significant interest of key industry partners will certainly open doors for The Bahamas to make significant advancement in innovation and technology.”
The Kanata North Technology Park is an innovation hub located 14 miles West of Downtown of Ottawa. This innovation cluster is home to over 540 technology companies, such as Mitel, You.i TV, Saba Software, Nokia, Ross, Cienna, Ericsson, Blackberry and QNX. Kanata North leads in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, and Internet-of-Things. Firms in the technology park employ over 33,000 skilled workers and collectively contribute more than CA $13 billion to Canada’s GDP annually.
High Commissioner Gray noted that, as the world’s ninth largest economy, Canada abounds with investment opportunities. The Bahamas High Commission in Ottawa, he highlighted, has strengthened its role as scout for investment opportunities for The Bahamas. “The trade mission to Ottawa this February is just the initial stage of building the industry partnerships required to lay the groundwork for advancing the technology sector of The Bahamas. Follow up meetings are anticipated in the very near future.”