Ambassador Michael Ian King from Barbados was in South Carolina recently to be honored at the South Carolina World Trade Center’s Embassy Series Event. Ambassador King’s visit was in conjunction with the MOJA festival and helped to create buzz about the ties between our two societies. He also was here to infuse life into the trade relationships and education initiatives between Barbados and South Carolina. The Ambassador’s delegation included Ms. Donna Forde, Economic Counsellor at the Embassy of Barbados as well as Mr. Pearlie Drakes and Ms. Sandra Payne of Invest Barbados. Sponsors of the event were the College of Charleston and Cockspur Rum.
Day one of the itinerary in South Carolina began in the state’s capital of Columbia where Ambassador King and Ms. Forde were invited to meet with Governor Mark Sanford. They discussed the cultural and historical ties between Barbados and South Carolina and ways in which we can refresh our positive economic relationship. After a few good stories, Governor Sanford presented Ambassador King with a gift engraved with the South Carolina State Seal. In return, the Governor was given a bottle of special reserve Cockspur Barbadian rum.
Next, the Ambassador crossed the street from the State Capital House to meet with the South Carolina State Department of Commerce Director of the Office or Economic Development, James Gambrell, and Director of Export Development and Foreign Relations, Clarke Thompson. Both parties, excited to discuss opportunities and ideas, jumped right into an in-depth conversation on the potential of merging our cultural and educational prospects. More specifically, they outlined how we can help each other develop our youth.
South Carolina seems to be challenged with a high drop-out rate in primary schools, and in Barbados they face the obstacle of successful entrepreneurship. Gambrell noted that he was, ‘‘very impressed with the workforce readiness in Barbados. It is a pleasant surprise to find the quality of education provided, especially by way of offering free secondary education. There seems to be a genuine interest from Barbadians to learn and stay in school; this is something we can learn from. In exchange, they can use help entering the entrepreneurial pipeline such as we have set up here in South Carolina.’ Gambrell is referring to the University of South Carolina, Columbia Technical Incubator program run by Joel Stevenson, which has helped a number of entrepreneurs get started and become successful.
One initiative potential is seen in a virtual, interactive course currently being implemented in high schools throughout the state called globalMARKETS’. This course allows students an inside glance into the career paths of international business. Students interact with peers in countries around the globe as well as learn about the different faucets of global economy. globalMARKETS’ has recently been approved to go online which means that students will be able to access it from anywhere, including Barbados. The possibilities seem promising linking Barbados to South Carolina and building programs that will indefinitely better both of our societies.
Day two began with a visit to the College of Charleston for a private breakfast including faculty from various departments of the college, board members of the college, and three C of C students who spent last semester abroad in Cuba. The intimate setting allowed the Ambassador to engage in a lively discussion on Barbados politics in relation to the United States as well as cultural elements. Afterwards, Ambassador King, Donna Forde, and Lisa Callihan ’ Director of the South Carolina World Trade Center, took a tour of the Port of Charleston. There is considerable opportunity for increasing importing and exporting with Barbados and the Caribbean in general.
The afternoon was devoted to a Business Seminar on Trade and Investment Opportunities in Barbados. Presenters incl