Dialogue on “Young Entrepreneurs: Drivers of Sustainable Growth” hosted by Young America’s Business Trust (YABT) & The World Bank

Authored by Rebecca Obounou

I recently had the privilege of representing CHES in the worldwide online dialogue on Young Entrepreneurs: Drivers of Sustainable Growth hosted by Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) and the World Bank in August. The online dialogue brought together young entrepreneurs and professionals from 46 different countries (mostly developing countries) to discuss present day matters pertaining to youth entrepreneurship. This was one of multiple dialogues held in multiple languages with entrepreneurs worldwide. We had a robust dialogue around a few specific questions we were asked to prepare ahead of time about the role of government in entrepreneurship. The English dialogue in which CHES participated lasted two hours. During this month, the outcomes of these dialogues will be submitted at the World Bank Annual meeting to be held on October 8, 2015. Below the main points of the discussion are summarized.

  1. What Government programs and policies have been most successful in getting your ideas off the ground?
    There are many great programs to support entrepreneurs that governments globally have instituted. One participant from Ethiopia shared how his start-up has greatly benefited from an entrepreneurship development program launched by the African Union. The African Union has targeted women entrepreneurs and he has seen some positive outcomes. However, it was also discussed that these programs are not often widely publicized. The need for more fair participation free of nepotism was raised. The need for increased transparency along with the need to eliminate corruption was discussed at length. Participants recommended that governments report the outcomes of their programs, that governments report the outcomes in less convoluted ways by using more info graphics, for example, and that governments inform the public more widely when reports are released. The paramount necessity to provide more support for youth entrepreneurship was also discussed.

  2. What experiences have shaped your entrepreneurial philosophy, what advice would you give others?
    Many philosophies were shared. One was to not be afraid to start small to get to what you want. The words patience, perseverance, resilience, and determination were central to this discussion. This rang especially true for most participants and most of us were representing enterprises started in developing nations. Failures are learning opportunities and they shouldn’t discourage entrepreneurs. One person brought up the point that entrepreneurship is becoming a more and more romanticized notion when it is downright hard work. Entrepreneurs cannot be afraid to work hard. Plans are also important for a start-up. There was discussion of how a well thought out plan goes a long way in getting the necessary people enrolled for the start-up of a new business. It was discussed that sometimes a business is simply not a right fit for an entrepreneur. One must carefully examine whether they would be happy working in one type of business versus another. One gentleman shared how he started a business that was very successful but closed it to start-up another one that better suited to the lifestyle he desired. Resourcefulness, innovation, and self re-invention were also discussed at length. One person from Kenya shared how she started her business with $60 and how it has grown into a profitable operation. Finally, there were discussions about important relationships. Entrepreneurs should build a network of like-minded people. Entrepreneurs should always look for opportunities to create alliances. Mentors are key! It’s important for entrepreneurs to find someone or trusted people who can provide good counsel.
  3. How can young entrepreneurs contribute to growth and shared prosperity in the developing world?
    Discussion on ethical and conscious businesses was forefront. Entrepreneurs can best contribute to the developing world by starting conscious businesses that have a purpose and create value for all their stakeholders – not just shareholders – employees, customers, communities, shareholders, etc. The participants discussed the importance of businesses paying taxes to contribute to society. The moderator of the dialogue shared how a study of the taxpaying businesses in Burkina Faso revealed that the small businesses paid more taxes than the small businesses. The creation of new jobs also serves society. There was also much discussion of looking to serving society’s unmet needs through start-ups. Michael Porter’s shared value theory was discussed. The cost of detracting value from a stakeholder never goes away and eventually a company must pay. Starting a company committed to doing business ethically lays the ground for long-term success and much shared prosperity.

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