As Haiti faces economic and social challenges, exacerbated in recent years by the great earthquake of January of 2010, native son Kesner Pharel has worked to improve conditions for the common Haitian. Using his training and experience, he has become one of the leading voices and active proponents for economic and educational improvement in Haiti, working extensively to create opportunities for local entrepreneurs. For his efforts, Kesner Pharel has been awarded one of the highest honors that Haiti can bestow, the title of “Trésor national vivant” (Living National Treasure).

Born and raised in Haiti, Mr. Pharel attended Catholic primary and secondary schools in Les Cayes. He continued his education in the United States, attending George Washington University, where he began by studying electrical engineering, but graduating (in four years) with a double degree in economics and political science. Upon graduation, he moved to France where he earned a master’s degree in sports management from the Universite de Lyon. Finally, he rounded off his education with a master’s degree in Public Administration from the prestigious Harvard University, Boston, USA, before returning home to Haiti.

He set up the consulting firm Group Croissance, with co-founder Karly Jean-Jeune, in Port-au-Prince, and in which he holds the title of President-General Director. The company offers training and consulting services in the fields of management, the economy, finance and National Training and Information Center training. In addition, Mr. Pharel serves on the Advisory Team of The Children Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization launched in Haiti by Marketware International to promote educational and economic opportunities for the youth of his country. Communication is also part of his work: Mr. Pharel hosts the weekly radio show “Universite Libre” on Radio Metropol to teach money management and a weekly financial program, “Investir” on the same station. He is also the manager and editor-in-chief of the economic section of the daily newspaper Le Matin.

In his broadcasts, articles and numerous interviews, Mr. Pharel identifies the challenges that Haiti faces and offers his ideas for solutions to improve access to  education, stimulate economic development and increase the opportunities for employment. The key, he states, is, “To reduce corruption in the government (a subject he often addresses in Le Matin) and increase opportunity across all parts and peoples of Haiti”. The department of the West, where Port-au-Prince is located, accounts for nearly 90% of the economic activity in Haiti, with the rest scattered across the other departments. To help correct that situation, Mr. Pharel has worked to disseminate ITCs – zones in which foreign investment has created manufacturing facilities or other employment opportunities – throughout all the departments of Haiti.

The link between education and poverty is also a major concern to Mr. Pharel. He notes that the illiteracy rate in Haiti is greater than 40%, one of the highest in the region. At the same time, nearly 4 million Haitians earn less than the equivalent of US$1.00 per day, and nearly 7 million earn less than $2.00 per day – in a nation with a population of just over 10 million! He emphasizes the need to provide quality education for all of Haiti’s children,  but more than teaching just facts – instilling what he calls “aptitude”. Furthermore, he  insists that the Haitian education system also encourages  an attitude of entrepreneurship amongst its youth. Only by learning to value innovation and develop business ideas can future generations of Haitians find a means to better their economic conditions.

While many decry the Haitian diaspora – the increasing number of people who leave the country to study and work overseas – Mr. Pharel believes that it may offer a positive opportunity for Haiti’s future. By going to school in other countries and gaining work experience in places outside of Haiti, these citizens can obtain much-needed degrees and practical skills. As opportunities in Haiti increase, many of these people will return to live and work in their native land. Even while they live elsewhere, he believes, they can continue to support Haiti’s growth.

The life and work of Kesner Pharel reflects his philosophical beliefs. Having taken the opportunity to study in other countries, he returned to Haiti, bringing with him his training as an economist and knowledge of business standards and techniques. Since his return Mr. Pharel has worked on many fronts to help his fellow citizens to realise their potential and create opportunities. For his energy and commitment, Kesner Pharel has indeed earned the title of “Trésor national vivant”.

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