It might seem safer to stick to what you know and stay in your own country when starting a business, but establishing yourself abroad may actually be better suited to what you have in mind. One place you may not have considered is the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, but there are plenty of good reasons why the dual-island paradise should be the home of your new venture.
As one of the most prosperous states in the Eastern Caribbean, there are plenty of flourishing industries that would perfectly accommodate new enterprises. Antigua and Barbuda also boasts a well-educated and skilled population, with an almost 100% literacy rate who could become promising employees. Furthermore, the country is part of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), meaning that goods, people and capital can move freely throughout all member states, while the Eastern Caribbean Dollar is pegged to the US Dollar at a fixed rate.
Another reason to start up in Antigua and Barbuda is the Small Business Development Act. This was introduced in 2007 to facilitate the growth of the country’s entrepreneurial sector, providing various benefits, concessions and technical assistance. These incentives include a 75% reduction of property tax for any land or buildings used by the company, and up to five years’ exemption from income tax on profits. Here are some of the country’s best business opportunities.
Business opportunities in Antigua and Barbuda
According to the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the following sectors provide the best business opportunities to entrepreneurs who want to set up in the country:
- Accounts for almost 60% of GDP.
- An 8.75% increase in stayover arrivals between 2017 and 2018—one of the highest growth rates in the Caribbean.
- One of the most popular Caribbean destinations for hotel investment, soon to welcome luxury brands including Waldorf Astoria and Rosewood.
- Second largest banking sector in the Eastern Caribbean region.
- Antigua and Barbuda’s financial services are responsible for one-fifth of the region’s assets, deposits and loans.
- Eight commercial banks operate competitively in the country.
The ABIA has also highlighted business support services, education and logistics as key business sectors, believing that these all “reinforce each other in a synergistic manner”. For example, investing in education could enable the nation to further develop its tourism and financial services, as well as health, wellness and business support.
Agriculture is another core industry, as 30% of Antigua and Barbuda’s land is arable, but only 18% of that space is currently in use. The ABIA is confident that the sector has the potential to develop further, through the production of pineapples, poultry and sea-island cotton. ICT could provide another promising business opportunity. Thanks to significant public and private sector investment, the industry has experienced rapid growth, particularly with regards to broadband internet.
Steps to starting your business
Citizen vs non-citizen applications
If you aren’t from Antigua and Barbuda, you may decide to participate in the country’s citizenship by investment program, which make it easier to start a business. This scheme allows you to become a citizen if you purchase real estate, or invest in a government-approved business. Alternatively, you can donate to the National Development Fund (NDF), which supports government-sponsored projects, or the West Indies Fund (UWI), which finances the University of the West Indies’ Antigua and Barbuda campus. Once you’ve obtained citizenship, you have the right to live and work in the country.
If you want to start a business as a non-citizen, and also want to make the most of the incentives from the Small Business Development Act previously mentioned, there are several requirements you’ll need to meet:
- Ensure exports make up over half of your business’s production.
- Invest a minimum of EC $500,000.
- Source at least 40% of the goods and services required for production from businesses in Antigua and Barbuda.
- Guarantee that at least half of your employees are citizens of the country.
Registering your business name
- Ensure your business name doesn’t already exist by manually searching through business name registries at the Antigua and Barbuda Intellectual Property and Commerce Office (ABIPCO).
- Submit a business name application form and pay the filing fee.
- Following registration, request a Statement of Particulars form from ABIPCO and submit.
- Collect the Business Name Registration Certificate and Statement of Particulars.
- Register the business for statutory deductions. The bodies you will need to register with are the Inland Revenue Department, Social Security, Medical Benefits and the Board of Education.
When you have a verified business name, you can apply for the benefits that come with the Small Business Development Act. Just submit the company name along with an Approved Small Business Application, a business plan with a financial statement, and either a passport or proof of citizenship.