Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems
SEEP would like the thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of this project.
The poor urban communities in Jamaica’s capital and major towns are a measureable manifestation of nearly five decades of development failure. The prevalence of violence and crime have had a corrosive effect on education, investment, access to decent work, supportive family life, and social cohesion.
More than 60 percent of Jamaicans living in poverty are below the age of 25. Jamaica’s population includes a large cohort of “unattached” people between the ages of 15 and 24. The unemployment rate of youth between 14 and 19 is 46% and is almost 30% for those between 20 and 24 years of age.
The Value Initiative Program in Jamaica (VIP Jamaica) targeted the urban centers of Kingston, St. Andrew, and St. Catherine, with an aggregate population of 1,134,600, of which an estimated 250,000 live in inner-city communities. There are an estimated 550,000 unattached youth in Jamaica overall (youth between 14 and 24 not in the labour force or school) and 40% of this group is situated in the three urban centres targeted in this project. Low levels of education and limited opportunities for employment have fuelled emigration, which has further shattered family structure. This situation has perpetuated the cycle of poverty, inability to access opportunities, inter-generational poverty, and low social mobility. In addition, these communities are dominated by an entrenched network of criminal gangs and pervasive violent crime.
The impact of crime on Jamaica’s development is immense. With little hope of finding work, young people are recruited at a very early age—at best—into the informal economy of illegal vending and illegal taxi operations, and—at worst—into the criminal economy of drug trafficking, gun-running, and robbery. For many of these youths, a gun is far easier to obtain than a job.
Given this situation, VIP Jamaica, known as “Building a Bridge to a World of Opportunities,” focused directly on income- generating prospects, with the promise of positive and measureable change in a relatively short time. It searched for possibilities of profitable enterprise within inner-city communities in Jamaica. It aimed to engage the poor in a wealth-creating global value chain based on life-affirming initiatives, rather than on participation in organised crime.
The VIP Jamaica Team was made up of three partners: The Competitiveness Company (Technical Partner, responsible for program design and implementation), Area Youth Foundation (Social Partner, participated in phase 1 and responsible for community mobilization), and The Jamaica Exporters’ Association (Financial Manager).