~Ife was nominated by the U.S. Consulate and is the first St. Maartener to be selected for this premier program~
PHILIPSBURG:--- A delegation from the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Consulate Curacao traveled to the island of Sint Maarten during Global Entrepreneurship Week. In addition to other official courtesy meetings, the Chief of Mission and Consul General, the Honorable Ms. Bond, invited a handful of key stakeholders to dinner for an opportunity to share challenges pertaining to economic growth, explore commercial opportunities, and discover ways in which the U.S. Consulate and by extension, the U.S. government, can effectively support sustainable economic growth on Sint Maarten.
Those invited to the “Dream Up Innovation” dinner included the Branch Manager of the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten, Ms. Raquel Lo fo Wong, a faith-based leader and IEP Peace Ambassador, Dr. Alicia Liverpool, Damien Schmidt, Project Coordinator at the Princess Juliana International Airport, Minister of Finance, Hon. Ardwell Irion and his chief of staff, Christian Grannum, and Ife Badejo assisted the Consulate in organizing the dinner.
Representatives of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Consulate included the Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, Katharine Beamer, Shannon Rooney, Washington desk officer for the Dutch Caribbean, Chief of Mission and Consul General, Margy Bond, Consul for Political, Economic and Public Affairs, Kristin Lundberg, and Public Affairs Specialist, Sady El Hage.
During this dinner, guests discussed strategies for increased economic growth and proposed creative solutions to common entrepreneurial problems. One topic was on the Orange economy being a key driver for economic growth in St. Maarten. Another topic was digital payments and how to engage with bigger firms to help solve this problem. There were also discussions on how to keep the people motivated and support them in cultivating an innovative mindset and thus building an innovative culture.
A few months ago, Ife Badejo was nominated by the U.S. Consulate in Curacao to participate in the State Department’s premier professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, due to her work empowering entrepreneurs in Sint Maarten. Fellows of this program can only participate once they are selected by the U.S. State Department after receiving a nomination from a local Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. invests in current and emerging foreign leaders around the world and offers them an opportunity to go to the U.S. for three (3) weeks to foster relationships with their global counterparts in their area of expertise. Ife will be focused on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
The Director of Caribbean Affairs, Katharine Beamer, made the announcement at the Dream Up Innovation Dinner which took place on Wednesday, November 16. At the closing of the dinner, Mrs. Beamer thanked Ife for assisting in coordinating the dinner and then said,
“I understand that my colleagues at the Consulate in Curacao nominated you for a program called the International Visitor Leadership Program. I am really thrilled to say that you have been selected by Washington to travel to the United States to participate in this program on entrepreneurship in the spring of 2023. We’re super proud and inspired by you. We’ll be investing in you and we know that this will be another step in building an incredible relationship between you and the United States, and your contribution to your country, the region, and the world. Thank you so much and we’re delighted to have you.”
Ife will be the first St. Maartener selected for the multi-regional entrepreneurship program and will join 19 other fellows from around the world in the U.S. in April 2023. A few notable IVLP alumni include former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher (UK), Tony Blair (UK), and Julia Gillard (Australia). Ife Badejo was selected for her commitment to entrepreneurship development, advocacy on digital economic inclusion, and the work she has led under Islandpreneur.
In addition to the dinner, the U.S. delegation joined the final pitch practice session of the National Youth Pitch Competition on November 17 before departing the island. Consul General Margaret Bond, Vinod Kotaai, board member of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Vincentia Rosen- Sandiford, director of the Bureau of Intellectual Property for Sint Maarten served as mock jury panelists. Other members of the community and the delegation served as a practice audience. The delegation and audience also provided valuable feedback for students in preparation for the finals which took place on November 20.
For more information about the International Visitor Leadership Program, visit https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/international-visitor-leadership-program-ivlp. To learn more about the US Consulate in Curacao, visit https://cw.usconsulate.gov/.