World Summit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs
My apology for disappointing my readers last week – Unfortunately, it was such a challenge getting to Toronto that I decided to get to the end of the trip before settling down to writing my article. I wrote this article at a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet, a reasonably smooth flight except for a few light turbulence but manageable, in the same type of aircraft, Airbus319 as I traveled in on my in bound flight to Toronto, Canada only that the pilot flew at 39,000 feet.
The World Summit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs was a success. The organizers hosted participants from 39 countries. Canada had a very large delegation. Unfortunately, the level of USA participation was low. However, Mr. Ross John ably presented a clear indication of how things are progressing in the USA as it relates to 1st Nation Peoples.
It was very much in keeping with the progress that is being made by 1st Nation Peoples in Canada that the Summit was held in Toronto. The Aboriginals have made substantial gains in recent years and are poised to make further gains in the years ahead.
The Summit brought participants up to date on developments as it relates to Aboriginals around the world. Non Aboriginal participants experienced at first hand the challenges and gains that 1st Nation Peoples are making around the world and Canada in particular. The thrust of the conference was to expose Entrepreneurs to each other and to reaffirm a fundamental point that Entrepreneurial Pursuit is the principal vehicle for transformation.
The Summit had two main objectives i.e.1) To update 1st Nation Peoples on progress being made as they seek to make the transition into the formal economies of the world, while informing non aboriginals of their struggles towards integrating into the formal society and become partners in development and share in the benefits equitably. ( There are lessons to be learnt from the 1st Nation Peoples especially by third world developing nations ). 2) To seek to expand their scope of Investments globally by Joint Venture relationships among 1st Nation Peoples, and in conjunction with Non Aboriginals. This aspect of the Summit was promoted by “ Let’s Make A Deal “segment of the programme. 1st Nations’ and Non 1st Nations’ participants presented their offers to the general body. Presentations by the St. Lucia Delegates were well received and many participants wanted to know more about St. Lucia. There was a high level of interest in the St. Lucia. The delegation was led by the President of the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association – Mr. Patrick H. Joseph and included Eldridge Stephens and Edward Harris – members.
It was unfortunate that other Agencies and Organization in St. Lucia did not participate in the Summit but I am convinced that one is never certain which conference will be just another talk shop or which one will deliver. I feel that this one will deliver on its promises. Only three Caricom countries were represented – Montserrat, St. Kitts – Nevis and St. Lucia. Having attended the Summit, I am fully convinced it was an experience not to be missed. There were lessons to be learnt and an opportunity to see at first hand the evolution of a group people who are destined to be major players in the world’s economy in this century. The process has already begun. It is important to note that many of the 1st Nations reserves are rich with mineral resources, oil, gas, gold, diamond and many others. We heard about projects currently being negotiated in the vicinity of forty billion dollars. Then there is the business of Casino Gaming where they are raking in millions and the issue about historical property rights. Handicraft and Herbal Medicine will be big in the next few years. We heard about 1st Nations’ corporations that are involved in commercial businesses such as manufacturing, trucking, construction, banking, distribution, etc. Some 1st Nation corporations are financing research into medical equipment and other cutting edge technology. The 1st Nation Peoples are stepping out to establish a presence in the global market place of commerce and industry and they are not afraid to engage Non 1st Nation Peoples at all levels. All they are seeking is to secure a better life for their peoples, numbering almost three hundred million around the word.
I am confident that many relationships will be born out of the 1st World Summit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs. I feel that if we open our hearts and minds to others and welcome them to be a part of making each other stronger, our progress will be greatly accelerated. Open our doors and allow people to assist us. Mr. Sujit Chowdhury is not a 1st Nation person but that had nothing to do with him working along with Aboriginals and all other races to ensure the success of the Summit. Apart from the UN and its several agencies, the Government of Canada and the Bank of Montreal made an outstanding contribution to the Summit planning, implementation on successful conclusion. Mr. Ron Jamieson, Senior Vice President, Aboriginal Banking of the Bank of Montreal was the Summit’s Chairman.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in places and positions that we continue to ask the question how did it all happen and why me? Only to find that it is all in keeping with the divine plan for your life and maybe you may have a deeper connection than you thought prior to your soul searching exercise which revealed the reason. In my case, I have a family tree reason to be there. My great grandmother on my mother’s side was an Aboriginal Indian from Guyana. Sometimes, we know so like of about our ancestors. I wish I had known more.
After spending three days in the summit environment, it was time to step out and enjoy some Toronto living. I moved to spend the remainder of the week with my boyhood neighbour and friend. We did not see each other for over thirty five years and what an opportunity it was to reflect on old times, the many friends we lost over the years and those whom we still expect to meet in this life or the next. It was a great experience meeting with my friend and his family. He is in the Real Estate Business for 33 years and I had the privilege to visit a few interesting properties with him as he attempted to keep his daily appointments and fit my business meetings and sight seeing into his schedule. We will have one incident to remember for a long time as he sprang a surprise on me.
On a final note there will be other such Summits as 1st Nation Peoples continue to integrate into mainstream international businesses and it is necessary for our private sector and government agencies to have a presence, especially at investment conferences in an effort to promote St. Lucia as a unique destination for business and pleasure in the Caribbean.