Jamaican Survival Guide #1: Links


For the longest time, It has been hard for many Jamaicans to get certain tasks done unless they had a ‘link’. The most prominent example of this is how we need Justices of the Peace(JPs) to verify that you are who you say you are. For instance, to open most bank accounts, you are required to have two references(the options for references range from police officers, doctors, lawyers, and JPs). The reference requirement is a part of the KYC(Know Your Customer) rules.

JPs often aren’t known to the people in the area they serve which leads to issues with I.D verification. How can this person not known to me verify that I am who I say I am? This opens up the door to corruption. The KYC requirements help to feed the ‘links run the country’ narrative as many Jamaicans are fed up trying to open accounts.

According to a CAPRI report, about 17% of Jamaicans do not have a bank account. Things have been improving in recent years with the rise of JAM-DEX, Low-KYC Accounts, and NIDS(to be fully rolled out this year). JAM-DEX is Jamaica’s digital currency which allows you to facilitate payments via a mobile wallet. Low-KYC Accounts can be opened with as little as a TRN and National I.D. NIDS is the new National Identification System that will allow us to open accounts without the need for a J.P.

What are Links?

Links can be defined as the following:

Individuals that help you to get tasks done faster than usual.

Jason Williams

Note: The Author uses the term ‘links’ and ‘network’ interchangeably.

Best link fi have a Jamaica a prob one customs link

— cuban (@___denzil) February 10, 2023

Essentially links equate to having a great network of individuals that you can rely on to help fast-track whatever tasks and needs you have. ‘Mi ave a link uppah customs enuh’ equates to knowing someone at the Jamaica Customs agency that you can call to help sort out package issues. Some persons grew up naturally surrounded by ‘links’ thanks to their parents while others gained them as they moved throughout life. One cannot understate the benefits of having a great network.

Nah, you need a whole crew of links fi exist properly. There’s no “best”…need a link inna
– customs
– doctor
– bank
– government ministries (all a dem)
– church
– car dealership https://t.co/mmedQiEB4g

— Krypto Kelp Kingpin.ETH 🇯🇲🇦🇬 (@keestroke) February 10, 2023

How can you get Links?

As stated earlier, some links come naturally based on your parents/upbringing. The schools you went to play a major role as well. Jamaica has several traditional high schools that the majority of the students on the island aim to attend namely Campion College, Calabar High, Immaculate Conception High, Jamaica College, etc. These schools have produced Prime Ministers, High Ranking Government Officials, International Athletes, Diplomats, Chief Executive Officers, and so on. The simple act of attending a traditional high school allows you to interact with individuals who tend to make up the upper echelons of society. You play sports with them, go to class with them, and even become friends with them. This may give you access to their family resources and network.

Photo: UWI Student Union

An amazing place to network with individuals is a university, specifically The University of the West Indies, Mona(UWI). Students from all over the Caribbean and the World attend UWI. You get to interact with people from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds. It is truly a place to meet every echelon of society.

One of my lecturers once said, “University is not about the degree, it’s about networking”. A lot of students attend university with only the goal of getting a degree on their minds. They end up missing out on creating valuable friendships, attending events, learning from others’ experiences, and of course networking. Outside of university, there are several Jamaican Meetup Groups you can attend for example Kingston Beta. Kingston Beta is focused mainly on people in the technology field. I heard it’s a great place to find a co-founder.

Photo: Kingston Beta Meetup on Breaking into Tech

What are the benefits of having Links?

As stated above, having the right ‘links’ can help you to get certain tasks done faster. Having the right network can make job hunting exceedingly easy. If your time at university was spent making connections, attending job fairs, and networking events then you, like many others, could gain employment even before you get your degree. Many individuals go to university for a degree to get a job but in some cases, obtain the job while in university.

Nowadays, a lot of companies have shifted away from requiring a degree, which makes it much easier to get a job. People want to hire individuals that they know will keep up a certain ‘standard’ so some jobs are gained via recommendations from current employees at a company.

Your network can be a major push when it comes to seeking capital(startup funding) for a business idea. Schools like Calabar High and Jamaica College are known for having strong Old Boys Associations. Giving back to your high school is a great way to get support from the Association. The money and support received from your network can then help to catapult your business to success much faster.

Many Jamaican Founders have said that the business might have died if it wasn’t for the support they received from their network. There is a particular founder who asked a member of his Old Boys Association to serve on the board of his company.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you were surrounded by ‘links’ growing up or decided to gain them as you went through life, there is no mistaking the fact that having a strong network can make life much easier. This is true in almost any country you visit. Human beings value relationships and have used them to push each other forward since the dawn of time. The network you have can literally make or break you since surrounding yourself with individuals involved in illegal activities could result in terrible consequences.

There are so many networking opportunities that we encounter every day. You can build a stronger network simply by participating in any number of extracurricular activities. We also have several clubs and societies in Jamaica that you can join, for example, The Rotaract Club. Even if your views on ‘links’ have remained the same I hope you gained some new insight from this article.

It is important for us to use any advantage we can get in order to make life easier.

Jason Williams

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