Jamaica Social Stock Exchange gets thumbs up

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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COUNTRY head for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Jamaica, Jason Fraser, has hailed the newly established Jamaica Social Stock Exchange (JSSE) as an innovative mechanism to mobilise capital for the public good.

The JSSE, he said, will contribute to the financial viability of the non-profit sector and social enterprises.

Fraser was addressing the social business enterprises plenary session of last week's Jamaica Diaspora Conference, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

An initiative of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), the JSSE was launched in January by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and is designed to facilitate funding, through donations, for the activities of entities involved in the delivery of social programmes to the society's most vulnerable and marginalised citizens.

Fraser, in endorsing the JSSE, noted the importance of the social economy's contribution to Jamaica's gross domestic product.

“Organisations within the social economy provide jobs [and] carry out social programmes that the private and public sectors are [either] not interested in or able to do,” he said.

Fraser noted, however, that among the major challenges these entities encounter is the lack of funding to execute and scale projects, noting that “most of these organisations rely on donations and gifts”.

“So, it must have been music to the ears of local innovators and change-makers, when the JSE answered the call and created the financial pathway for social enterprises and other socially-minded entities that are creating solutions for some of Jamaica's social problems,” he said.

He said the social stock exchange presents opportunities for the creation of more self-reliant organisations, employment and wealth creation, and increased private capital mobilisation to address development issues.

“It's an excellent example of the private sector realising the value and contributions of civil society and social enterprise. This is merging financial and social imperatives for sustainable development and self-reliance,” he pointed out.

Fraser noted that the social stock exchange concept is still new with only five such platforms around the world located in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, South Africa, and Brazil.

“They all differ in the kinds of activities they take on as well as who can invest. But it becomes clear that a growing number of charities, non-profits, cooperatives, for-profits are applying business models to tackle social problems,” he said.

He said that in the UK, where the social stock exchange has been introduced to good effect, enterprises benefit from, among other things, being part of a network that facilitates learning and sharing.

He added that the relationships between entities and funders have improved, as the latter are able to see the impact of their investments.

In the case of Singapore, Fraser said that the social stock exchange impacts investment, is unlocking capital that is directly impacting millions of lives, as well as engagements in technology, education, energy, and health.

“According to the 2018 Investment Exchange Impact Report, since its inception 10 years ago, the exchange harnessed capital of US$94 million to impact 24 million lives. The report further states that approximately 385,000 women are expected to gain sustainable livelihoods by the year 2021, as a result of mobilising US$8 million in private capital through the Women's Livelihood Bond,” the mission head indicated.

Fraser said that Jamaica “can now count itself as one of those countries that are innovating a new way of raising capital for social enterprises… [and] that's a huge achievement”.

“A force such as this is truly inspiring as the Jamaica Stock Exchange, leveraging its brand and successes, seeks to galvanise private financing towards sustainable development,” he added.

USAID, he said, is pleased to be working with the JSE on the initiative through its Local Partner Development Project “as they chart the direction of the social stock exchange, which I am convinced will serve as a best practice example not only in the region, but also globally”.

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