Less than 18 months after the earthquake which devastated the Caribbean state of Haiti, the search is on for the country’s 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year – a business leader destined to become a key figure in the rebuilding of the local economy.

Nominations are now being invited for the second year of the Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year awards, whose importance to the future of Haiti is underlined this year by the fact that a number of the country’s main corporate players, and a development agency have stepped forward to sponsor the competition.


Those sponsors include Sogebank, one of the country’s largest commercial banks; the insurance leader, AIC; the textile manufacturers, Groupe Coles; consumer goods experts, Deka Group; and the development agency, Mercy Corps.

Our Entrepreneur of the Year programme is all about supporting the development of an outward-looking enterprise culture here in Haiti – and what better way to do that by holding up the example of these thriving and invaluable sponsors,” said Maarten Boute, CEO of Digicel Haiti.

And, of course, what’s special about these companies is not just that they are successful, competitive and innovative, which they are – it’s that they also have within their corporate cultures a firm belief in giving back in multiples to the country which made them the market leaders they are.

Mr. Boute added: “We have all been horrified in recent weeks to see again, this time in Japan, the terrible devastation that a major natural disaster can cause. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people whose lives have been affected. We hope they will take some heart from the determination with which the people of Haiti, and its business leaders, have been rebuilding their shattered country. It’s a daunting, complex, long term project which takes true grit.”

Given the background against which it is being held, it is appropriate that the theme for this year’s awards is A Force for Change in Haiti.

Once nominations for the awards are received, a judging panel of ten, chaired by Digicel founder and chairman, Denis O’Brien, will evaluate those entries according to strict criteria, including the companies’ strategic direction, their record of innovation, their financial performance and their impact on the local community in which they are based.

In terms of the individual candidates, the judges will be looking for seven fundamental qualities: leadership, integrity, competence, transparency, vision, creativity and environmental awareness.

The next stage of the competition begins with four regional finals in which a shortlist of 96 of the country’s highest business achievers will be acclaimed and compete for a winning place in the six categories – Education, Emerging, Environment, Food and Agriculture, Industry and Services and Tourism and Culture. Six winners will emerge per region resulting in 24 places that make up the national final.

Once again this year, the 24 national finalists will take part in an intensive executive education programme designed to give them the strategic skills and expertise to look outside of Haiti to the international marketplace for the growth which will drive their businesses in the decades to come.

That high-octane executive education programme was described by last year’s winner, Hans P. Garoute of INDEPCO, as “an invaluable networking opportunity” and by other contestants as no less than “a life-changing experience.”

In fact, that learning experience continues well beyond each year’s competition.

As the 2011 competition gets underway, finalists from the 2010 awards have just completed a two-day workshop on “Designing Business Models”, led by Professor Eamonn Walsh of Smurfit Business School at UCD, Ireland.

The aim of the workshop was to help the finalists to draw lessons from other emerging economies, such as Egypt, Bangladesh and India and to show that, while one year’s competition is followed by the next, the value of networking and constant innovation is never ending.

The Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year is also supported by media partners, Le Nouvelliste and TNH.

Nominations for the Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year Program must be submitted using the official nomination form or online via www.digicelhaitientrepreneur.com by Thursday, June 30th, 2011.

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