HAVANA TIMES – Selling or marketing, opening a small shop, or offering services in design, programming and software development are the initiatives that have generated the most searches in the Economic Activities Browser developed by El Toque for the private sector in Cuba. The site was launched in August.
Cubans utilized this tool to find out if their idea for a private or cooperative venture is allowed in Cuba under the existing regulations. The application is based on data from the National Classifier of Economic Activities, as well as the list of activities that aren’t authorized for the different categories – non-agricultural cooperatives; micro, small, and medium businesses; and self-employment. The official lists of activities authorized and prohibited were officially presented in Decree 49/2021.
After performing a statistical analysis of over 8,000 searches conducted on the site in the past four months, we selected the 30 most frequently mentioned activities. To do so, we grouped the terms alphabetically and according to their meaning, which allowed us to identify the number of searches related to each economic activity.
It’s worth noting that the most sought-out activities aren’t generally tied to vital areas of the economy, but rather are related to other recent business initiatives. On the other hand, over the past months there’s been a growing scarcity of food, hygiene products and clothing in the state business networks that sell in Cuban pesos. Many items have been transitioned to selling in foreign currency. This has motivated the growth of the informal market, as an alternative to have access to these goods, since most Cubans only have pesos.
As a result, there are ever more participants in the informal market. These economic actors dedicate themselves to the resale of products, or to buying merchandise outside the country and reselling it back home. The latter explains why many users of the search engine want to know what kinds of product sales could be legally licensed as a business.
There’ve also been repeated searches related to activities such as teaching, consulting, and advising, which indicates that various highly professionalized sectors are interested in entering the non-state market. Architecture showed a similar pattern, although there were fewer overall searches.
Searches related to publicity and marketing activities were also very common. Given the landscape that’s coming with the creation of the micro, small and medium business opportunities, the new non-agricultural cooperatives and the self-employed workers, marketing and advertising studies will become essential, in order to generate knowledge and spur services to increase competitiveness among the economic actors.
Another of the activities most often searched are those tied to personal caregiving. If we take into consideration the data from the report: “The aging of the population, Cuba and its territories”, published in 2021 by the Cuban National Statistics and Information Office, we find that 21.3% of the Cuban population is over 60 years old, and there’s no indication these numbers are going to shrink. Hence, the existence of private services dedicated to caring for the aged could bring relief and lead to a broader availability.
If we group the searches according to country, we find that the five locations where the most inquiries were realized were: Cuba, the US, Spain, Germany and Canada.
In the case of searches originating in the United States, the general pattern remains the same: sales and commerce, design, programming, and teaching. From Spain, there were more frequent searches regarding other business ideas, such as recording studios, ice cream parlors, or searches related to tourism and to milk.
Searches conducted from Cuba
The searches from Cuba weren’t very different from the general searches.
Sales and commerce once again had the leading role. There was an extremely broad spectrum of searches in terms of types of sales and marketing. There were also a fair number of searches of activities related to the production or elaboration of different soft drinks and fruit drinks. The difficulty finding these products in the state market, and the high prices in the informal and private markets has generated interest in such activities.
Among users’ questions are those regarding the possibility of forming merchandising groups, establishing cooperatives of translators and interpreters, and about the actual legality of tattoo parlors.
An analysis of the data also uncovered the fact that there are searches linked to a more complex economic scenario and more closely connected to international tendencies. While it’s true they don’t have a lot of frequency, we list some here for their value in understanding some aspects of Cuban reality.
- Blockchain – cryptocurrency
- Gold mining
- Accounting for small and medium businesses
- Cooperatives of translators and interpreters
Situation of the micro, small and medium businesses and private services in 2021
Since the first list of approved independent economic activities was published on September 29, a total of 1,207 economic enterprises have been approved. According to the Ministry of the Economy and Planning, of the total number of micro, small and medium businesses approved, 1,166 are private, 22 are state-run, and only 19 are cooperatives.
The main economic activities identified in the lists up until now are tied to construction, food production and computer programming activities, as well as auto maintenance and repair. Three of these activities were among those most searched.
How does the economic activities search engine function in the non-state sector?
Once a search request has been received, the tool returns a list of activities related to the search terms, together with a description of these. Each activity is marked with an icon that indicates whether or not it’s authorized in the country.
The searches can contain the name of the activity that the searcher is interested in, or some words related to it. For example, to seek information whether it’s possible to start a bakery or related activity, the user could enter the word “bakery”. It’s not necessary to add words such as: “How could I?”, or “Is it possible?” or to write question marks.
In order to put emphasis on one key word during the search, we recommend adding the symbol “+”: for example: “producing +cheese”. This will restrict the search results to the word that appears after the plus sign.
For those who desire direct information about what isn’t allowed, the site also offers the option of downloading the entire list of activities that are forbidden for non-agricultural cooperatives, private micro, small and medium businesses, or self-employment.
To try out the search engine, click here.