Patience, mutual trust and profound knowledge of Cuban society are some of the most important keywords for any organisation or company wanting to work in Cuba. It can be a long and unpredictable road. So maybe we should even add flexibility, because you sure need a fair amount of flexibility and a creative mind to stay focused on your ultimate goal, setting up a business or project in Cuba.
The last two years we have been to Cuba on numerous occasions, we even lost track, to build a strong relationship with our Cuban counterpart ANEC (the Cuban Association for Economists and Accountants). Many conversations, intense meetings and Cuban coffees later the mutual trust is definitely there. As a result we are now applying for the official approval to roll out our full interactive capacity building program for Cuban small and growing entrepreneurs, in cooperation with ANEC.
One can identify several obvious reasons why there should be trust between cooperating partners. In Cuba there are several less obvious reasons regarding the importance of trust apart from the obvious ones and this is where the profound knowledge of Cuban society steps in. Here our Cuban members to our Advisory Board, Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva and Amalin Sad Rodriguez, play a very important role. They advise us when it comes to important decisions, funding, cultural differences and unwritten rules, the impact of the economic reformations, and much more.
Paco Borrás, professor at the University of Havana and banking and finance expert at ANEC, has been involved in our initiative from day one and he has been a great adviser as well. He has brought us lots of knowledge on Cuban society. His most important advise was, and still is: paso a paso. Which literally means step by step but could be translated freely as patience! And this is where sometimes, we have to admit, frustration steps in.
Since the beginning of our initiative, it has been an amazing roller coaster. Within less than 3 months upon the official foundation of Stichting Credit4Cuba, we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with ANEC, in May 2016 we provided our first pilot workshops, followed by a sequence of interactive workshops throughout the year, our network of entrepreneurs and stakeholders in Cuban has increased enormously, and our hard work has been rewarded with support from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Many important steps have been taken.
But the last couple of months have been rough. We are awaiting the official approval, which is a long process and requires a lot of patience. In addition, at the beginning of August the Cuban government announced a freeze on new licenses for some private-sector occupations, with the objective of improving the private sector. It feels like our patience and perseverance is being tested big time. But then talking to the Cuban entrepreneurs, hearing their needs and concerns, we realise again why we started this initiative and that we can’t lose our patience.
And while some of us are still in shock about the freeze on new licenses, ANEC and Credit4Cuba think we should seize the moment to receive the official approval for our capacity building project to empower the cuentapropistas. And more! After all, these turbulent times could also offer the opportunity to not only assist the self-employed, but the banks and other institutions working in the Cuban private sector as well. Heading for empowered self-employed, private sector development and improved access to finance!
In September we will be in Cuba to work with ANEC towards the formal approval to roll out our full training program for the Cuban small and growing entrepreneurs. At the same time, we will continue our discussion with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) on how to assist with the improvement of access to finance for entrepreneurs. Please stay tuned!