Remarks by the Ambassador
León, January 4, 2017
Welcome to the students and personnel of Wake Forest University.
The students and staff at Wake Forest University are both enthusiastic and capable partners, and I am excited to see their hard work bear fruit here. And I know they have found an effective and strong partner here at UCC-Leon to support local small and medium-sized businesses in the region.
Wherever I travel in Nicaragua, the importance of small businesses is evident. They drive job creation and are the critical source of income for millions of Nicaraguans. According to the National Social Security Institute (INSS), there are 28,200 businesses registered in the country with fewer than 20 employees.
But this only scratches the surface, as an estimated 75 percent of all employed Nicaraguans are working for micro and small businesses in the informal sector.
According to a survey conducted by COSEP last year, 95 percent of Nicaraguan businesses—formal or informal, large or small—did not have formal accounting systems.
Few have had access to the training and tools needed to establish a formal business, obtain financing, and position themselves for greater growth. For its part, the government should work to create transparent, simple, and fair rules of the game.
In addition to the actions that need to be taken by businesspeople and the government, new business and small businesses are not exempt either from global trends in innovation and technology.
The cell phone, the mobile app, and advances in manufacturing and production are impacting us all wherever we are. Too often, we see business-owners who think that the only way to compete is on price. But in today’s world, that is a race to the bottom. The race to the top—the race to a more prosperous Nicaragua—is through innovation for better quality, better design, better service.
This Center will certainly be a valuable tool in that pursuit. The Embassy is proud of our support to entrepreneurs and small businesses, recognizing their critical role in the future of the country.
USAID is providing funding for new and emerging business in Nicaragua and entrepreneurship training to at-risk youth from Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast.
We are working with Nicaragua’s network of entrepreneurship organizations to sponsor an upcoming Technology Summit with key U.S. companies such as Google, Uber, and Airbnb on January 21. With this event we hope to connect small businesses with the technology that is changing industry, and we hope that they can benefit from it.
The Peace Corps is training high school teachers and students on entrepreneurship and business plan development. Nine Nicaraguans participated this year in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.
All of these efforts are designed to support Nicaraguans who want to improve the lives of their families and grow their businesses. In so doing, they are building a more prosperous Nicaragua and supporting stronger commercial ties with the United States. That is in everyone’s interest.
I am proud that Wake Forest, one of the most well-known universities in the United States, is sharing its experience through this unique partnership with UCC-Léon. The establishment of this center itself is a great example of how taking an innovative approach to education can lead to the creative ideas that will launch new businesses.
The people and government of the United States are working with our partners here to support the aspirations of the Nicaraguan people for a prosperous, secure, and democratic Nicaragua. These goals are inextricably linked, each one supporting the other and together forming the foundation for a hopeful future. Prosperity is what happens when you combine innovation, empowerment, and sustainability through strong institutions.
Congratulations again to this new Micro-Business Development Center and to the partnership that it represents.