Driving Youth Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Last week the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry ICCI joined the Center for International Private Enterprise and  Kauffman Foundation to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week.  Aiming to determine obstacles to entrepreneurship, ICCI gathered a large number of young entrepreneurs, established businessmen, and students to discuss key impediments to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Amid their discussion, many participants voiced the opinion that the main objective should be to foster an entrepreneurial culture among youth.  CIPE Deputy Country Director Hammad Siddiqui asserts that the only way Pakistan can take advantage of its bulging youth population and push through the hard times of a sluggish economy and few jobs is to provide an environment that encourages youth towards entrepreneurial careers.  Some attendees expressed the need for the curriculum in schools to stoke interest in students.  While this is absolutely a vital part of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is also important to advocate on the policy side as well.

Earlier this year, ICCI won second place in CIPE’s 2012 Leading Practices contest for its efforts to not only increase interest in entrepreneurship, but to advocate for a supportive policy environment.  Being the first chamber in Pakistan to focus on youth development, ICCI created the Youth Entrepreneurship Forum and organized numerous conferences, forums, and seminars inviting youth and university students to attend.  ICCI went a step farther to include policymakers, academics, and young professionals in the events in order to identify existing barriers and craft plausible solutions.  Many of the recommendations that emerged from such events have been adopted by the government and incorporated into the National Youth Policy.

Currently, the Young Entrepreneurs Forum continues to grow and has established connections with universities and other chambers throughout the country.  ICCI also sends youth delegations on international trips to meet with similar youth groups around the world and participate in international forums such as World Chambers Congress.  With the support of CIPE, ICCI has established an Entrepreneurship Development Center that provides aspiring entrepreneurs with access to requisite tools and mentorship.

Through such efforts, ICCI has sparked an amazing interest in entrepreneurship and provides support for those who aspire to start their own enterprises.  Numerous competitions in Pakistan now reward startup teams by matching them with experienced mentors or even helping to secure capital from investors.  But more importantly, ICCI recognizes the importance of also providing a supportive policy environment, a crucial part of any entrepreneurial ecosystem, in which youth have access to the economy.  Regardless of the amount of interest or access to tools and financing youth have, if the environment lacks sound policies, youth will remain excluded and unable to participate in the economy.

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