The author, Kim Bettcher, with Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) in Milan.
What I love best about the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, most recently the GEC 2015 in Milan, is the diversity of approaches, organizations, and countries that I encounter under the big tent. At this carnival of entrepreneurship, one meets founders and policymakers, leaders from innovation economies and emerging markets, people who have already made it and others who are shaping the future.
Out of this medley, I try to stitch together, what do we actually know about advancing entrepreneurship? And where might promising new directions lie? For me, the theme of this year’s congress was moving the frontiers of entrepreneurship. We are currently pushing against several big frontiers, which include geographic, demographic, and policy frontiers.
Emerging markets are the first frontier. While commonly described as factor-driven or efficiency-driven economies, emerging markets contain pockets of innovation and entrepreneurial ambition. For instance, entrepreneur stories from the Middle East captured in Christopher Schroeder’s Startup Rising have created considerable excitement, as has the Cinderella story of Medellín, Colombia, the site of GEC 2016. In Milan, I was honored to have on my panel Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), who recently founded the Nest i/o incubator. Ara described a growing entrepreneurial community in Karachi and a feeling among entrepreneurs of “wanting to give back” (not unlike the community spirit described by Brad Feld in Boulder). I was ecstatic to see our friends from Nepal, the Samriddhi Foundation, take the limelight as winners of the Rookie of the Year award.
Why have China and Ghana achieved impressive growth and poverty reduction while Nigeria has seen an increase in poverty even as its economy grew to be the largest in Africa? The answer to this question lies in the relationships between the poor and elites, and specifically in patterns of social inclusion and exclusion. That is the conclusion reached by Seth Kaplan in his book Betrayed: Politics, Power, and Prosperity, based on a study of scholarly literature and personal observations in developing countries. Without a doubt, inclusion presents a fundamental challenge of development, and Kaplan has dug down to frame the core of the problem.
In Bahrain, young people – those under 25 years of age – make up nearly half of the population. To create enough jobs for Bahrain’s youth, entrepreneurs and aspiring businesspeople will need to equip themselves with the necessary skills that will allow them to thrive in a dynamic global economy. A number of entrepreneurship initiatives have grown up to respond to this need. These include programs offered by Tamkeen, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Polytechnic, the University of Bahrain, and the Bahrain Development Bank.
Established in 2006 as part of Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, Tamkeen’s mission is to support Bahrain’s private sector to become the main driver of economic development in the country. Tamkeen’s programs have benefited more than 100,000 Bahrainis, and in 2013 alone, Tamkeen assisted more than 600 startups. Its programs include: a business incubator; the “Mashroo3i” Youth Business Plan Competition for students between ages 16 and 23; and programs for secondary and university students which are offered with INJAZ and AIESEC.
The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.
At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.
Members of Tunisia’s business community share their concerns at a March 2014 policy roundtable.
We know that North African economies urgently need economic reforms, opportunities for youth, and greater economic inclusion. But what do we know about where the opportunities lie and – just as important – what are the greatest barriers that obstruct the growth of businesses?
A few salient insights emerged from a recent survey of 131 Egyptian and 100 Tunisian entrepreneurs and business owners, which was conducted by the Center on Development, Democracy, and the Rule of Law at Stanford in cooperation with CIPE. Many of the findings will come as no surprise — the business environment and entrepreneurial ecosystems have room to improve in both countries, and political uncertainty puts a drag on business. One major, policy-relevant finding is the need to address disparities in access to opportunity.
Michael Putra, Shell, discusses open policymaking at the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference, May 6. Seated to his left are Y. W. Junardy, President, Indonesia Global Compact Network, and Ahmad Yuniarto, Chairman, Schlumberger Indonesia.
At a tender three years of age, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is growing toward maturity. It has reached a stage where it can reflect on progress made to date and learn from early attempts to inspire action by government and civil society. While enthusiasm remains fresh – palpable in the youth contingent at the Asia Regional Conference in Bali – champions within OGP are thinking seriously about how to ensure the credibility of national commitments and deliver the fruits of open government to the people.
Yet as an observer in Bali, I was mostly struck by the moments of discovery, the “aha” moments that occurred as new and veteran participants encountered one another. OGP is entirely new to many countries in Asia (Papua New Guinea and Burma, for instance) and equally new to certain segments of society, especially the private sector.
At the session hosted by Indonesia Global Compact Network on “Building Trust between Private and Public Sectors for a Competitive and Sustainable Economy,” prominent business people were amazed to know that there is such a partnership for transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. They immediately grasped the potential of OGP to address issues of concern to them, including innovation policy, education, health, and local development. The light bulb really came on when they expressed that corporate social responsibility is not sufficient, that companies must become active citizens and engage with civil society and government alike to build trust.
Free Enterprise and Democracy Network (FEDN) members have been providing technical assistance in democratic transitions and sharing their experiences in economic reform. Here are some highlights of their activities.
In December, former Finance Minister of the Philippines and Chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia Dr. Jesus Estanislao held roundtable discussions with five political parties as part of a joint project with the International Republican Institute to enhance political parties’ capacity to develop economic platforms. Dr. Estanislao shared his experience with the Philippines’ democratic and economic transition, as well as the country’s approach to decentralization.