Creating Opportunities for Haiti

March 28, 2023

By Daniel Molina

Haiti remains highly vulnerable to natural hazards, including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. But natural disasters are not the only difficulties the country is grappling with. From political instability to striking levels of insecurity, the country faces significant economic and social challenges. In this difficult context, IFC continues to support Haiti’s private sector growth, a key step towards advancing economic development and improving the lives of all Haitians.

In this interview, Ivy Kuperberg, a Country Officer based in Port-au-Prince, shares insights into her work while emphasizing that understanding conflicts and crises is key to building resilience.

Ivy Kuperberg.
Ivy Kuperberg, IFC Country Officer for Haiti. Photo: Courtesy of Ivy Kuperberg

After living in Haiti for 10 years, you shifted to West Africa for two years before returning to Haiti as an IFC Country Officer. What brought you back?

I first came to Haiti in 2010 to work at the general hospital after a devastating earthquake. Following that visit, I continued to work across the private, public and multilateral sectors, before getting an opportunity to work in West Africa for two years. This allowed me to draw lessons from 11 countries at different stages of development. I tried to absorb everything — what worked, what was challenging, and all the different ways in which we could boost development and economic outcomes for entire populations.

In 2022, when IFC gave me the opportunity to come back to Haiti, I was excited. I felt that my experience in Haiti and in West Africa would really give me the tools I needed to support our clients, helping build a broader economy and create shared prosperity.

What lessons from your past work experiences helped you succeed in your new role?

I could list quite a few lessons, but three of them really stand out — country contacts, knowledge management, and people. Haiti is a unique country that can certainly benefit by replicating efforts that worked in other countries. However, it’s critical to understand the nation’s distinctive constraints and opportunities to build resilience. Second, it is always good to be respectful of others’ work and build on it while optimizing your experiences. Third, as simple as it may sound, we have a huge pool of talented youth and workers in Haiti. Leveraging our human resources to support those who are committed to building a better future is essential.

Haitian children washing their hands before lunch.
Haitian children washing their hands before lunch. The World Bank is supporting access to nutritious food in Haiti with a special focus on school-feeding. Photo: World Bank Group

How is IFC making a difference in Haiti?

IFC has been able to leverage a portfolio that reached $140 million over the last several years. Some of the most exciting investments include opportunities such as Ayiti Leasing, which is Haiti’s first leasing company and ensures that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have access to resources. In another example, the horticulture improvement project trained over 600 farmers to handle every aspect of horticulture products — from supply chain to consumers. The goal is to create a thriving private sector market for these products and boost local production.

Ivy Kuperberg and her family.
Ivy Kuperberg and her family. Photo: Courtesy of Ivy Kuperberg

What are some of the projects you are working on right now?

We are working on two sectoral deep dives. These are sectors that we believe have high potential in the Haitian market. One is the agriculture sector, which employs a majority of the Haitian population. In this sector, we are looking at different opportunities in the area of specialty products — both for local and export markets — and also at specialized production opportunities. We are equally excited about health care, a growing sector across Latin America. We’d really like to see how Haiti can play a significant role, where the growth opportunities are, and where we can make strategic investments.

What do you enjoy the most about Haiti?

Haiti offers a complex, challenging, and amazing work environment. There’s never any downtime and always something new, different, or downright difficult to focus on. I am fortunate to be able to live in this country and do impactful work.