"Come with a business mentality!"

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • December 28, 2013 12:02 PM EST

Interview with Firmin Backer, President of HRA,
Organizer of Business Investment Conference and Expo


On January 17-18, 2014, Haiti Renewal Alliance (HRA) is launching the 5th Annual Business Investment Expo and Conference in Port-au-Prince after four successful editions in Washington, DC. The organizers have kept the same format of the event with an expo, conference, and the popular Investor's Tank session where entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas hoping to impress some potential investors.

2014 is the first year when the event takes place in both Port-au-Prince on January 17-18 at Karibe Hotel, and Washington, DC on June 6-7 at Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

For the upcoming Haiti edition there are 12 conference sessions to include:

The Role of Women in Economic Development
Agribusiness Govt Panel: Innovative Solutions to Food Security Priorities
Agribusiness Private Sector Panel: Improving Food Supply Chain Value
The Role of the Diaspora in Haiti’s Economic Development
Competing in the 21st Century Global Marketplace
Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Haiti’s Untapped Treasure
Current Trend in Haiti’s Business & Banking Legislation
Project Financing Opportunities
Business of Tourism – Serving A New Generation of Travelers
Energy & Infrastructure – The Key to Economic Development

We talked to Firmin Backer, President of HRA, about the first Haiti edition of the Business Investment Expo and Conference to take place in January.

What triggered your decision to launch the Business Investment Expo and Conference in Haiti?

We received a lot of feedback from our participants, especially those who came from Haiti to participate in the expo in DC, and they told us that the country [Haiti] can benefit greatly from an event like that. Particularly, the president of the Senate talked to us about that and requested that we come to Haiti to do it.

We did have participation from people in Haiti who came to DC, so we said: let's take the people who are interested in investing in Haiti to actually go to Haiti and meet a lot more people that can provide information about investment opportunities in Haiti. Also, because it's been a while since an event like that has been organized in Haiti, we thought that a lot of people can benefit greatly from such an event.

Is the Haiti event going to be in the same format as the one in DC, or will you introduce something new?

It's going to be exactly the same thing, except the country is different. We do not expect to change much from what we used to do in DC. It's going to be a business expo, as well as a conference going on simultaneously. Just in the same way we usually do it.

The one new thing we'll introduce in Haiti is the CEO lounge, where the CEOs of companies can relax, network, and have a good time while at the expo.

Does the government support you in organizing this event?

To a certain extent, yes. We are partnering with the Center for Facilitation of Investment, which is the government's front door to attract investors to Haiti. They've contributed greatly to the expo in Haiti.

Will the event be in English, Creole, or French?

That's the issue that we have, although the business language in Haiti is mostly English; however, there are still a lot of people who speak in French or Creole, so we technically leave it to the panel. Some people are more comfortable with Creole, some with English, and others more with French. Of course we'll try the best we can to provide translation, particularly for the conference. There will be a lot of mixed languages because you are dealing with the Diaspora that speaks mostly English, but you also have a lot of people who don't speak English but speak Creole or French.

How much will it cost to attend?

For exhibitors, it will cost US $750 for companies and US $550 for non-profits. If you are just an attendee the regular cost is US $55 and US $30 for students.

What are your expectations for the event?

I really have high expectations for the event. Based on the feedback that we've received thus far, I think this is an event that people have heard about as an event organized in DC, but they were waiting for an event like that in Haiti.

What was the biggest challenge in organizing the event so far?

The most challenging thing I can say so far is to convince other people in Haiti that this is a great event that will further promote business development and investments in Haiti. The most challenging aspect of it is the fact that we are here in Washington and we are putting this together in Haiti, so we really need to have people on the ground that are basically doing the legwork, run to meet people, exhibitors, and sponsors, and we had to hire an in-country director, whose name is Fédrique Pierre, to do the legwork for us.

What can attendees expect from this event?

The attendees should expect a great networking platform where we have entrepreneurs, investors, and where they will receive a lot of information about investment opportunities in Haiti. I really expect them to take advantage of this platform, and if they have projects and are looking for funding, to really talk to investors that are there and to come with a business mentality.