Calling for Bold Response to Global Job Crisis, Secretary-General Says Proper Investment in Young Entrepreneurs Could ‘Change the World’
Calling for Bold Response to Global Job Crisis, Secretary-General Says Proper Investment in Young Entrepreneurs Could ‘Change the World’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
AM & PM Meetings
Calling for Bold Response to Global Job Crisis, Secretary-General Says Proper
Investment in Young Entrepreneurs Could ‘Change the World’
Special Event’s Panels Highlight Development, Education, Empowerment
Calling for a bold response to the global employment crisis, the Secretary-General urged that young entrepreneurs be encouraged, educated and empowered in order to meet the challenge of filling nearly half a billion jobs by 2030.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, opened the thematic debate on “Entrepreneurship and Development”, noting that currently 73 million young people were out of work and that, in the next 20 years, 425 million young women and men would be joining the global workforce. However, entrepreneurship was about innovating, breaking down barriers, taking risks and showing that new business models could tackle long-standing problems.
Many large companies, he said, had started “in someone’s kitchen or backyard”. With proper investment in the education and empowerment of youth, it would be possible for them to change the world. He called on partners to support youth entrepreneurship, self-employment and youth-led businesses, saying the United Nations Global Compact would support young entrepreneurs in advancing a more sustainable future.
Vuk Jeremić, General Assembly President, said that the post-2015 development agenda would “stand or fall” based on whether Governments were able to work with individuals who embodied the spirit of social entrepreneurship. The world had agreed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, that it was critical to develop within planetary boundaries. Thus, entrepreneurs were on the frontline of sustainable development.
However, he said, countries would not be able to depend on public resources alone. Conducive and productive partnerships with the private sector and civil society had to play a critical role, as well. The potential of gifted and talented people had to be harness, especially in the promotion of socially conscious entrepreneurship, which he said Governments should see as a duty.
Shimon Peres, President of Israel, participating in the event through video message, said that entrepreneurs were the “greatest hope of our time” and individuals’ initiatives could make up for what Governments lacked. The job at hand was to encourage each individual to become a productive and contributing human being and benefit the international community. It was vital, then, to mobilize as many enterprises as possible to make the world a wealthy and hopeful place for all.
Several other speakers, including the Special Envoy of the Guatemalan National Competitiveness Program and the representative of Israel, emphasized the benefits entrepreneurship could bring. Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, described his efforts to reignite the spirit of entrepreneurship in Europe, while Inderjit Singh, a Member of Parliament in Singapore, said entrepreneurship needed to play a bigger role in poverty alleviation. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Hategeka, Rwanda’s representative, described how entrepreneurship was integral to his country’s Vision 2020 plan to achieve middle-income country status.
The Assembly also held three panel discussions, including “Entrepreneurship for development”, “Entrepreneurship education”, and “Entrepreneurship as a tool for empowerment”.
The General Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
VUK JEREMIĆ, President of the General Assembly, recalled that at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, it was made clear that to achieve sustainable development, Governments would not be able to depend on public resources alone. Conducive and productive partnerships with the private sector and civil society played a critical role, as well.
Equally important, he pointed out, was harnessing the potential of gifted and talented people, who were often best placed to take steps to break the vicious cycle of poverty while fostering community resilience. Hence, Governments should see the promotion of socially conscious entrepreneurship as a duty. It was also essential to address modern challenges, particularly humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels which stood at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. Emphasizing the need to provide the means to leverage cutting edge scientific training to entrepreneurs, he said that would translate into basic public services.
On the issue of market price adjustments, he noted that they could result from tax and subsidy corrections which took social costs and benefits into greater account. In turn, they could be applied to investments in cutting-edge green technologies, and feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, carbon pricing, and providing export guarantees to riskier markets.
As well, differential pricing could entail an agreement in lower-income settings, he said. In exchange, Governments and more developed countries could work together with the private sector to promote sustainable development. Such measures were already being implemented in the medicine and health sectors. Further, establishing centres of excellence for entrepreneurs for pre-commercial trials to occur would potentially empower academics to partner-up with enterprises and assist in bringing products to market.
The post-2015 development agenda would “stand or fall” based on whether Governments were able to work with individuals who embodied the spirit of social entrepreneurship, he said. The world had agreed at Rio+20 that it was critical to develop within planetary boundaries. Thus, entrepreneurs were on the frontline of sustainable development. Echoing the proverb about teaching someone to fish, rather than just giving them a fish, he stated that social entrepreneurs were people who did not rest until they revolutionized the fishing industry.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said the global jobs crisis demanded a bold response. Approximately 73 million young people were currently unemployed. By 2030, 425 million young women and men would join the global workforce, resulting in half a billion jobs needed worldwide. Thus, to help meet that challenge, young entrepreneurs should be encouraged, educated and empowered.
An example, he continued, of such entrepreneurship was that of Lorna Rutto, born in a slum in Kenya where sewage and waste was a major problem. As a child, she sold ornaments she had made from discarded plastic. In her twenties, she established, with help from the International Labour Organization (ILO), a recycling programme. By the age of 24, she had created 500 jobs and had eliminated over a million kilograms of waste while saving more than 250 hectares of forest.
Entrepreneurship, he emphasized, was about innovating, breaking down barriers, taking risks and showing that new business models could tackle long-standing problems. Many large companies had started “in someone’s kitchen or backyard”. With proper investment in the education and empowerment of youth, it would be possible for them to change the world. He called on partners to support youth entrepreneurship, self-employment and youth-led businesses, saying the United Nations Global Compact would support young entrepreneurs in advancing a more sustainable future.
He also said that the World Bank and ILO were working with the United Nations on a Youth Employment Network. In addition, the United Nations Capital Development Fund was working with the MasterCard Foundation on YouthStart, which aimed to increase access to financial services for low-income youth in sub-Saharan Africa.
To build on the progress seen, he said in conclusion, it was necessary to foster enabling environments for youth entrepreneurship, to build the capacities of local institutions, to provide career counselling, to facilitate access to finance and youth-friendly financial services, and to coach young entrepreneurs beyond the start-up phase, so that they could maintain success.
SHIMON PERES, President of Israel, participating in the debate through video message, said that, although today’s economy was global rather than national, globalization did not mean that each person became global. They remained, in fact, highly individual. Therefore, the age of entrepreneurs had arrived, where one person could change the world. A case in point was Mark Zuckerberg, who had changed the world with Facebook. Such innovations depended on initiatives and investment in discipline and thinking.
He also said that entrepreneurs were the “greatest hope of our time”. What was lacking in Governments was gained in individual initiatives. Further, the United Nations was becoming the “United People”, because people were becoming increasingly important. The job at hand was to encourage each individual to become a productive and contributing human being and benefit the international community. Thus, it was vital to mobilize as many enterprises as possible to make the world a wealthy and hopeful place for all.
ANTONIO TAJANI, Vice-President, European Commission, stressing that reigniting the spirit of entrepreneurship was crucial to the future, stated that internationalization should enable companies to operate globally. To that end, the Commission had organized missions to countries, including China, Israel, Myanmar, Canada and Australia, which gave businesses the chance to establish international relationships. The European Union was also currently negotiating with the United States and Japan to establish free trade deals that would allow entrepreneurs to operate in a wider market and to find more sources for investment.
In addition, he said that, in Europe, because businesses had identified red tape as one of the main obstacles to successful entrepreneurship, the European Commission was currently working to address the matter. Small and medium enterprises were the “backbone of economies”. Yet, the current economy was making it harder for them to operate. To that end, he was working to facilitate the participation of women, seniors, youth and the unemployed in the business sector. He also stressed the importance of research and innovation and was working to encourage more investment in research in both the private and public sector.
INDERJIT SINGH, Member of Parliament, Singapore, said that with 1.3 billion people still living in extreme poverty, entrepreneurship must play a bigger role in alleviating suffering and uplifting humanity. Exemplifying that was the Grameen Bank, which had started as a community-building bank by Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1976 to provide microfinancing to the poor in Bangladesh. Besides, microfinancing, another important aspect of entrepreneurship development was acquisition of relevant skill sets and expertise.
In its early years of development, his Government had recognized entrepreneurship as an important driver of Singapore’s economic growth, he said, adding that growing global companies provided good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. As well, Singapore had played a large part in building the entrepreneurship ecosystem and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs by funding technology start-ups, investing in innovative companies and providing tax incentives to venture capitalists to encourage them to invest. Entrepreneurship education was a critical component, he stated, describing a three-year entrepreneurship programmes, which exposed students to real-world industry.
Social entrepreneurship, he went on to say, fostered new business opportunities with a focus on better serving billions of people through products and services, which were not only useful, but affordable, too. In Singapore, he recalled that new legislation and incentive schemes were being developed to support social issues and to promote entrepreneurship. The goal was not just gross domestic product (GDP) growth, but also socially sustainable and inclusive growth.
EMMANUEL HATEGEKA ( Rwanda), emphasizing that the individual work of entrepreneurs, when aggregated, helped drive investment and growth, stated he was pleased that those innovators were being recognized at the highest level of the United Nations. In that regard, the people of Rwanda had set goals for the country that underscored the importance of the private sector as the main driver for fulfilling Rwanda’s Vision 2020 plan. One of the aims of that plan was the achievement of middle-income country status.
Total employment outside of agriculture in Rwanda had more than tripled, he said, pointing out that it was no coincidence that a million people had been lifted from poverty. Businesses were the foundation of that remarkable growth and job creation. It was vital that the pace of such efforts be kept up as Rwanda and countries like it urbanized and industrialized. As well, the entire ecosystem needed to be nurtured to help dismantle the many barriers that existed for entrepreneurs in developing nations.
He went on to say that his country had invested in improving its population’s technical skills and education levels towards building an entrepreneurship culture. Only if entrepreneurship was seen as a viable option would people follow that path. To that end, the Government was working to expand access to financing and markets for businesses, to improve the regulatory framework and to invest in infrastructure. He also underlined the need to include the informal sector as it was the source of approximately 30 per cent of income for many in Rwanda, especially women.
SALVADOR PAIZ, Special Envoy of the National Competitiveness Program,
Guatemala, said that he was an “entrepreneur at heart”, putting his skills to the development of his country. The public and private sector in Guatemala were currently working together to promote development, eradicate chronic malnutrition and reduce poverty. That was particularly challenging as Guatemala expected almost 1 million young people to reach working age and seek employment in the near future. Therefore, it was critical for his country to grow faster and to launch enterprises, he stressed, outlining various developments, such as reforms on entrepreneurial grants.
He also commended the joint work between academia and the private sector, for which he credited the comprehensive study of markets and products. That partnership had also helped launch new high-growth businesses. In addition, in an attempt to end waste, the Government implemented a cross-saving initiative that was expected to save its ministries $10 million, money that could go towards strengthening its police force and other public services. However, although tremendous progress had been made, much work still needed to be done. Guatemala was a country rich in natural resources, he said, emphasizing the need to exploit those resources in a sustainable and responsible way. As well, there was a need to address the corrosive nature of drug trafficking activities in his country.
RON PROSOR (Israel), stating that the meeting celebrated those who were not afraid to fail, question and dream, described how Evans Wadongo, a Kenyan who grew up with no electricity or running water, completed his schoolwork by the light of a kerosene lamp. Because that lantern’s smoke damaged his eyes, he developed a solar-powered lantern and his invention was now being used in Kenya and Malawi. It was not easy to push boundaries and blaze new paths, but all the obstacles that entrepreneurs overcame helped pave the way for future entrepreneurs. Those visionaries were needed to change the world and tackle the most pressing problems, like poverty and disease.
Israel’s existence, he said, proved that it was possible to succeed against the odds. As a tiny nation with limited natural resources, difficult farming conditions and persistent adversity, every step in the country’s journey had been a struggle. Nonetheless, the State now had more start-ups per capita than any other country, with the third highest number of NASDAQ-listed companies. Adding that Israeli innovations were revolutionizing entire industries, he said that entrepreneurship held the key to unlocking the challenges of the twenty-first century and should be a central focus of the post-2015 development agenda.
Panel Discussion I
Moderating the first panel, “Entrepreneurship for Development”, was Rita Cosby, a television journalist at CBS. It featured presentations by Dan Shechtman, Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor at Technion Institute of Technology, Israel; Martin Bruncko, Senior Director, World Economic Forum; Fred Hu, Founder of Primavera Capital Group; Sherry Tross, Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the Organization of American States; and José Manuel Salazar, Executive Director, Employment Sector, ILO.
Mr. SHECHTMAN, pointed out that, in many parts of the world, poor people migrated, often becoming refugees, because of the lack of work. Technological entrepreneurship, thus, was key to fostering and creating a society where people were not forced to leave their home countries in search of opportunity. Investing outside of cities was also important, as the future workforce was likely to come from villages and the city periphery. In addition, Governments had a very important role in ensuring a free market economy that fostered technological entrepreneurship. However, any corruption in those sectors had to be eradicated, as it “destroys and kills”. He recalled his involvement in creating the entrepreneurial spirit of Israel where tremendous effort to promote entrepreneurship began in its high schools, because “starting young” was important. As well, in universities, such as the one in which he taught, engineers and scientists had opportunities to learn firsthand how they could benefit society through entrepreneurship.
Mr. BRUNCKO observed that, just in the last few years, entrepreneurship had become one of the main policy focuses across the world, calling the shift “no accident”. With 200 million people currently unemployed, the “global unemployment pandemic” was alarming. In some countries, one in two young people did not have a job. Providing them with a future was not only an economic imperative, but a moral one. However, with public debts at a historic high, especially in developed countries, Governments were no longer able to provide citizens with sufficient employment. In addition, jobs were less stable as investors moved from one country to another faster than ever before.
As an entrepreneur, he said, it was very empowering to create a job, not just for oneself, but for others, as well. Although it was hard work, nonetheless, a number of new trends, including the increasing access to technology, made it much easier for people, from Silicon Valley to the Rift Valley, to become entrepreneurs, accessing information and classes available online from top universities. Other tools included organizations, operating around the world, connecting entrepreneurs with the right mentors and organizations.
Mr. HU said that China’s rapid growth was responsible for lifting 500 million people out of poverty, calling it an “unprecedented feat in human history”. Many economists had attributed China’s success to the so-called “ China model” — mainly strong Government and massive public investment. Surprisingly, very little credit had been given to entrepreneurship. However, the main engine driving China’s growth had been entrepreneurs, whose contributions had been essential for job growth, poverty reduction and wealth creation. Evidence showed that entrepreneurs contributed to income growth and the creation of 400 million jobs.
In 1978, he continued, when economic reforms were launched, State-owned industries accounted for 80 per cent of the working force. Today, the trend had reversed with 75 per cent of the workforce employed by the private sector, recalling how he had personally taken many entrepreneurial companies public. The goal now was to turn established business entrepreneurs into successful social entrepreneurs. As urbanization sped up, many entrepreneurs became successful in real estate, food and beverage sectors, and footwear. Additionally, they had assumed increasingly permanent roles in China’s technology sector. Without vibrant entrepreneurial activity, development would be difficult to transfer to durable sustainable growth.
Ms. TROSS said that, in recent conferences she had attended around the Americas, all of them heavily emphasized development and entrepreneurship, and featured major buy-ins from a wide range of stakeholders, especially youth. The Internet had enabled the participation of a global audience, demonstrating that such issues were becoming “borderless”, engaging partnerships between policymakers, businesses and young entrepreneurs. The financial crisis and global transformations had led to increased recognition that economic development needed to go hand in hand with sustainable development.
In the Americas, she continued, the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises translated into 67 per cent of jobs in those categories. That helped to reduce extreme poverty by half, though inequality remained high. Inclusion, therefore, had to be integral to the development matrix. Discussions were currently taking place aimed at giving dedicated attention to opening avenues of opportunity for women, youth and vulnerable groups. She stressed the importance of education and of sustainable entrepreneurship, and noted the “massive pool of talent” provided by migrant entrepreneurs.
Mr. SALAZAR said enterprise development was a pillar of the ILO’S employment promotion efforts, which had an integrated approach to promoting sustainable ventures. It was also one of the largest global providers of entrepreneurship training, offering different training programmes depending on what point in the start-up process the entrepreneur was at. The “Start and Improve Your Business” programme had worked with 4.5 million clients, contributing to the creation of half a million start-ups and 2.7 million jobs. The last 30 years had seen an “entrepreneurship revolution”, with a shift from managerial capitalism to entrepreneurial capitalism. For the shift to take place, an enabling ecosystem was required, including good educational establishments and vocational training. Studies had shown that the benefits of the programme’s training in Ghana outweighed the cost of delivery by 18 times. It was vital that national policies were geared to making training programmes like “Start and Improve Your Business” work if they were to achieve scale.
In response to the United Kingdom’s representative asking the panellists for their opinions on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” framework as a way of setting benchmarks for Governments to help foster entrepreneurship, Mr. SALAZAR stressed the importance of that index, despite considering it to be too narrowly focused. He added that his main criticism of the index had been its inclusion of labour costs because ranking ease of business based on cheapness of labour was not the right way to look at the issue. The World Bank team had responded to the criticism by removing labour costs from the analysis.
On the question from the delegate of the United States, who asked about patents and property rights and whether they remained important to young entrepreneurs, Mr. BRUNCKO said property rights remained very important, but that patents were less so because of how long it took to establish them.
Bangladesh’s representative described her efforts to empower people, especially women, through the promotion of entrepreneurship. Ms. TROSS said that women and girls had been specifically targeted in her efforts, as well.
Also contributing to the interactive dialogue were representatives of Chile, Germany and Cyprus.
Representatives of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the International Chamber of Commerce also took part.
Panel Discussion II
David Price, a United States broadcast journalist, moderated the second panel, “Entrepreneurship Education”, which featured presentations by Thom Ruhe, Vice-President, Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation; Friederike Welter, Professor and President, Institute for SME Research, Bonn, Germany; Luke Williams, Executive Director, Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, New York University; and Princess Jenkins, Founder and Visionary, The Brownstone.
Introducing the panellists, Mr. PRICE said he shared their passion for and interest in entrepreneurship, having seen through his work the global impact that one person could have when they had a good idea and were prepared to develop it.
Mr. RUHE said that good education was the foundation from which good entrepreneurship could grow. Describing the work of the Kauffman Foundation, including its scholarships and charter schools, he said that the Foundation also undertook research into the effectiveness of such programmes along with the Government policies that advanced or hindered such efforts. Basing its endeavours on the idea that entrepreneurship was the most effective tool for alleviating poverty, the Foundation also sought to help students to identify and follow entrepreneurial behaviours, even if they did not plan to become entrepreneurs. Further, entrepreneurship could not be on the perimeter of considerations, but needed to be at the core of wherever education operated.
Ms. WELTER said that, when entrepreneurship education had started in Germany, it was initially thought that focusing on students in higher education institutions would be enough. However, it was soon recognized that initiating that work in high school was better. Still, she said that focus should begin in primary school to foster the “wonderfully entrepreneurial” attitudes of children from the outset. Senior citizens also needed to be included. Students were often educated about entrepreneurship, but not for it, and she hoped to see more efforts in educational programmes to inspire people to become entrepreneurs. Because trainers themselves needed training, the European Union offered programmes that taught educators about inspiring the classroom. Entrepreneurship education also needed to reflect that it was not just about starting a business. She wished to see “entrepreneuring” viewed as an attitude that could inform other areas of life, as well.
Mr. WILLIAMS said many students in the Center he ran at the New York University Stern School were not interested in starting businesses, but benefited from learning entrepreneurial thinking. Innovation and creativity were essential to economic progress and ideas were an “inexhaustible resource” that could create new value and wealth. The more popular ideas became, the more valuable they were, and he said he hoped to see a culture dedicated to the multiplication of ideas. His work focused on expanding students’ perceptual scope to help them see more opportunities; on expanding their conceptual scope, to allow them to consider more alternatives and abandon their biases and prejudices; and on expanding their experimental scope and willingness to take risks.
Ms. JENKINS, recalling her first business in her 20s and the several times she failed, said getting up after failure was an essential part of entrepreneurship. Sharing passion and stories of successes and failures were important educational tools, as well. Her particular focus was women and women entrepreneurs. Stressing the importance of remaining open to new ideas, she said that help and mentoring were crucial, as well as access to financing and a passion for the work. A plan for growth was always necessary; however, not every entrepreneur wished to grow their business. Some lifestyle businesses were planned to provide people with incomes and to fit in with their lives. That meant it was important to consider what was meant by success.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Ms. WELTER, responding to a question from Zambia’s representative about the possibility of extending entrepreneurship education to other players in the market, emphasized that entrepreneurship was not just about educating people in how to run a business. The lessons from entrepreneurial education could be useful across the board, giving insight on issues like improving corporate social responsibility and awareness of responsible behaviour in the market.
Participants, also seeking panellists’ views on teaching entrepreneurism in primary schools, stressed the entrepreneurial spirit of children and the importance of not destroying their curiosity. Because entrepreneurship was a skill that could be learned, young people who had been taught about entrepreneurship at an early age would have greater confidence when they entered the workforce because they understood the uncertainties associated with employment.
Mr. WILLIAMS also pointed out it was easier to teach “replicable” entrepreneurship — starting a new business within existing models — but difficult to teach “disruptive” entrepreneurship, which rendered existing models obsolete.
The representatives of Member States, including those from Sri Lanka, Benin and the United States, participated in the interactive discussion, as did representatives of the academia and civil society.
Panel Discussion III
David Price, a United States broadcast journalist, also moderated the third panel, titled “Entrepreneurship as a tool for Empowerment”, which featured presentations by Roy Thomasson, Founder and Chair, Board of Directors, The Young Americas Business Trust; Rahama Wright, Founder and CEO, Shea Yeleen International; Naila Chowdury, CEO, TeleConsult Group; David Sengeh, doctoral student, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab; and Helen Marquard, Executive Director, SEED Initiative.
Mr. THOMASSON, noting his surprise at being asked to speak first, said that, in business, those who could adapt to the unexpected would survive. It was not possible to continue to depend on old business models, he went on to say, stressing the need to invest in young people, who, in some countries, represented a majority of the population. Otherwise, there would be no future. His organization had worked with youth, focusing on personal development and skills development. He pointed out that, when teaching science, students learned in classroom lectures and experiments in laboratories. However, entrepreneurship was generally taught as a subject. His organization created a programme, called a business lab, in which young people, over the course of one week, rehearsed a process to form a business, research a market, produce and sell products, and evaluate if they had made money. He also underscored the importance of the resolution on entrepreneurship proposed by Israel and other Member States as it required international cooperation.
Ms. WRIGHT said that there was a tendency to think of entrepreneurs as business leaders who were successful and wealthy. It was hard to associate entrepreneurship with those who were struggling with extreme poverty. Yet, she had seen African women who worked hard, had integrity and a powerful desire to create a better future for their children. Those were essential attributes of entrepreneurs. Wishing to help those women, she created an income-generating business model, which connected women making shea butter in the Sahel region to markets. The model helped raise their voices and visibility. A group of women from Ghana travelled to the United States to see, for the first time, the market themselves. Because they had to represent their community, their presentation skills improved. Their shea butter skincare products were now being sold in Whole Foods supermarkets. United Nations Member States could help in offering training, providing access to funding and opening up markets for entrepreneurs.
Ms. CHOWDURY, describing how that every two days in South Asia, a woman was attacked with acid, said that the call centre she founded employed those women who had been victims of those attacks. Her purpose was to make acid victims self-sufficient by creating job networks and business opportunities for them. Calling the work a completely different “ball game”, she said that the women working in the shelter gained the strength to live on because they knew they were helping women who were also victims of violence. Many of her employees lived on the margins of society, and were reluctant to advance in the workplace because of their mutations. However, once they became involved, what they gave back society was amazing, she said, because with their stories, they were saving women.
Because that model had been widely successful, she said, she was currently working to establish similar call centres in Washington, D.C., that would employ battered women of Pakistan, Afghan, and Bangladesh descent. As well, in her work, she strived to inspire women to be technologically savvy so that they could seek work. Having started the hotline with her own funds, she pointed out that, just after three years, the Swedish and Canadian embassies approached her with interest. She said she was an adamant believer in the adage that “if you do good things, good things come back to you”.
Mr. SENGEH said that, through his post-doctorate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he discovered that prosthetic sockets were extremely uncomfortable. He began to examine how to use the technology that was available to connect to the body. As an innovator himself, he knew that entrepreneurial innovation was much more about the process than the product. It was “almost unfair”, he said, to take away that joy and that ability to think about the challenge at hand from people in the developing world. Merely presenting them with solutions undermined their confidence and made them dependent on external factors to solve their problems. Through his work, he travelled to Cape Town, Sierra Leone and Kenya, asking people to “tell us about a problem and how you want to solve it”.
Ms. MARQUARD said that today’s entrepreneurs were extremely committed to protecting health and ecosystems, enhancing empowerment, engaging local communities, raising awareness of environmental problems and promoting the interests of women, children and other marginalized groups. In some circumstances, she said, failure was not an option and the only choice was to “carry on”. Entrepreneurs also valued their interaction with research institutions, she said, emphasizing the need to enhance such partnerships. They needed to be able to share their successes and set social, environmental and business goals. If they were able to do that, then they would be better equipped to go to a finance institution or investor and say: “This is what I do, who I am, and what I can deliver.” She pointed out that small- and medium-sized enterprises faced challenges with financing, calling it the “missing middle”. It was even more difficult to find financing for a social and environmental enterprise. More protection and support must be made available to enterprises that sought to be non-profit.
In the ensuing interactive exchange, several delegates expressed the need for a heightened focus on women and youth as entrepreneurs for development, with the representative of Trinidad and Tobago pointing out her country’s focus on those populations, in particular with microenterprises. However, more work was needed in education and raising awareness about the benefits of business. Mr. SENGEH said it made sense to focus on women and youth entrepreneurs. He shared his experience of visiting communities in Sierra Leone, where he said solutions to problems were proposed equally by both men and women. That gender ratio, however, became staggeringly different when he visited schools and colleges.
Zambia’s delegate said it was important to address the parameters of equality and how people “move up” in society. More people in Africa had to be engaged in the means of production. The representative of Australia said there was a need on a global level to remove the stigma around failure.
A representative from the Engineer Aja Eze Foundation stressed that women and youth in post-conflict zones were drivers of development. Emphasizing that “war is a development issue”, she pointed out that it did not only kill people, it destroyed entire societies.
The representatives of Mexico and Samoa also participated in the interactive exchange.
Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of the Young Americas Business Trust and City Arts.
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