SEVERAL BUSINESS operators who attended this week’s eighth Annual International Conference and Exhibition (AICE) 2022 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, are praising it for the networking opportunities it has opened as Jamaica’s first major conference following the COVID-19 pandemic.
AICE 2022, held from June 13 to 17, was hosted by the World Free Zones Organisation (World FZO), in association with the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, under the theme: ‘Zones, your partner for resilience, sustainability, and prosperity’.
It was also being held in conjunction with the first annual Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones Conference.
The first three days of the event saw the approximately 1,055 registered delegates visiting booths strategically erected at the convention centre for business networking and exhibition of products and services, with the last two days being reserved for business-to-business meetings and tours of Jamaica’s special economic zones and other investment opportunities.
Simoy Brown, application processing officer for Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority, said that her organisation’s information display got to benefit greatly from the conference, with numerous potential international investors seeking them out to establish a network.
“We thought it necessary to be a part of the conference, as we see that there is a lot of interest in the Cannabis Authority here in Jamaica. We see where there is a lot of interest, especially with investors wanting to be a part of this great industry, to help economic development for Jamaica,” Brown told The Gleaner.
“We see where we have gotten feedback, as people from as far as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Dubai, and parts of Ecuador and Colombia have visited our booth and have expressed an interest in the authority. We will meet with those persons as a part of knowledge-sharing, to see the best practices that we can take from some of these industries,” Brown explained.
Garth Hinchcliffe, deputy chief executive officer for the Kingston-based Manpower and Maintenance Services Limited, was likewise grateful for the opportunities which have arisen for his business, thanks to the conference, especially on the heels of the pandemic which restricted such networking possibilities over the past two years.
“The feedback has been fabulous, as we have gotten about 45 different inquiries and we have other free zone entrants who have come to us to ask what we are doing. We are talking to people from Kenya who have their free zones, Curaçao and Costa Rica to get some idea of how to do it right,” said Hinchcliffe.
Local delegates were not the only ones to praise the AICE 2022, as Srikanth Badiga, a delegate from India who serves on the World FZO’s board of directors, also showered praises on the event.
“It is one of the best conferences I have been to. I have a lot of things to take back home and share with other persons, and I see huge prospects from working with a country like Jamaica,” said Bagida. “Jamaica is a wonderful place with wonderful people. I am looking at how I can establish trade here and how I can take this trade internationally to my country, and I am sure I want to come back with more business opportunities.”
Dr Mohammed Al Zarooni, chairman of the World FZO, expressed confidence that the conference will herald the start of close ties between his organisation and Jamaica.
“This is the beginning of working with the Government of Jamaica, and I am sure that what is coming is more than what we did this time. I wish the Government of Jamaica all the best, and I also would like to show appreciation from the bottom of my heart for all the efforts and support that we received from the Government,” said Al Zarooni.