Afghanistan’s image in the news media is often shaped by negative stories focused on security and political challenges. What is often not highlighted are a number of successes, achieved over the past several years, in shaping the country’s economic policy and democratic governance. These reforms have improved the business enabling environment and made a positive difference in the lives of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on a predictable and efficient regulatory environment.
Entrepreneurship has become a major phenomenon in Pakistan. Among the highlights of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014, local startup “TalLee” was selected for the GEW 50 2014 as one of the top 50 startup ventures from around the world — chosen from among 600 startups from 38 countries.
TalLee sells door bells; the innovation that makes these door bells so special is that they have GSM capability, so that the owner of the house gets a phone call (irrespective of location) and connects with the person who has pressed the doorbell. The idea was conceived by Rafi, who founded TalLee in April 2014 and was offered incubation space at NUST Technology Incubation Center (TIC).
A seminar on Entrepreneurship for Economic Growth was also held in Karachi on November 21, 2014, jointly organized by the Karachi School for Business and Leadership and the National Entrepreneurship Working Group. Various factors that inhibit the growth of entrepreneurship were discussed. Among these, the lack of focus on critical creative thinking in the country’s education system was identified to be a key reason why graduates prefer joining the rank of job-seekers and not creators.
This inspired me to visualize my job hunting days and also to further investigate why critical creative thinking is absent from our education system. In 2004, when I graduated from an engineering university, seeking a job was written on my forehead. Dropping CVs to company after company was foremost on my to-do list, and after several interviews, one company hit me with an unusual question: why don’t you become an entrepreneur?
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly important participants in the new global economy. In many emerging free-market economies and newly democratic countries, women comprise a significant — and sometimes dominant — portion of the business infrastructure, not only in the informal and small business sector, but in corporate ranks as well. Yet their participation on the management of business overall and the making of public policy is still hindered by lack of adequate gender representation, legal, institutional and cultural barriers, and traditional societal practices.
For over 30 years, CIPE has been working to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market oriented reform. CIPE’s program for women focus on empowering them as entrepreneurs and encouraging their full participation in civil life and policymaking with the goal of building democracy that delivers for all.
In honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, CIPE hosted a Google Hangout with a distinguished panel of women leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss how women’s economic participation could be advanced globally. The panel featured Selima Ahmad, founder of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI); Lina Hundaileh, Chair of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association (YEA) in Jordan; and Lucy Valenti, President of the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN). Discussant and moderator were CIPE Program Officer Maiko Nakagaki and Research Coordinator Teodora Mihaylova.
BWCCI founder Selima Ahmad received the Oslo Business for Peace Award earlier this year.
Watch CIPE’s Google Hangout on women’s entrepreneurship, which discusses BWCCI’s work.
While still a poor country, Bangladesh is an economic success story in terms of its economic outlook and expanded employment opportunities for women. In recent years, economic growth has averaged 6 percent annually and a vibrant, export-oriented garment sector has generated employment opportunities for urban women. Bangladesh has achieved food self-sufficiency and significantly reduced poverty, “putting the country on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals.”
CIPE began working with the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) in 2006 with two objectives in mind. First, CIPE would provide training and technical assistance to the board and staff to ensure that the chamber focused on member needs and attained financial sustainability by growing its dues-paying membership. Second, CIPE encouraged BWCCI to shift from training individual entrepreneurs to pursuing policy advocacy to remove legislative and regulatory barriers to the equal participation of women in the economy.
BWCCI’s work expanding economic opportunities for women and promoting greater involvement of women in the policymaking process strengthens participatory democracy. Women comprise more than half the population and women-owned businesses generate employment and contribute to Bangladesh’s economic growth. Addressing the specific policy concerns of female entrepreneurs expands the inclusiveness of the democratic process and enhances female representation in the country’s economic and political institutions.
Pakistan is charged up to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2014. GEW has become a yearly phenomenon, with universities, GEW-Pakistan partners, chambers of commerce, and companies all sponsoring events during the week of November 17-23.
On October 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that the performance of each of his ministries will be evaluated in what the government describes as the country’s first-ever such accountability exercise. Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) has said that four benchmarks will be used assess each minister: implementation of the PML-N campaign platform from the 2013 election; internal department and ministry reforms; public service delivery and public welfare; and whether the ministry has a strategic plan, or a “future agenda.”
This development is particularly notable because for the past year, CIPE and one of its key partners in Pakistan – the Policy Research Institute on Market Economy (PRIME), an Islamabad-based think tank – have spearheaded a program to track the government’s implementation of its economic policy platform. PRIME issues a quarterly performance scorecard, tracking key macro- and microeconomic indicators, as well as legislative and policy initiatives, to measure whether the government is following through on its 2013 pledge to overhaul the economy.
The idea of such monitoring follows, in turn, on CIPE’s earlier work to engage the business community in policy advocacy and encourage the parties to campaign on specific economic platforms – at the time a first for Pakistan. This program by PRIME and CIPE continues that innovation, and also set the tone for the government’s own accountability push.
The adoption of good governance practices is beneficial to listed companies, unlisted companies, and family-owned enterprises.
Good governance practices strengthen companies by building relationships among investors, boards of directors, managers, and employees. Implementing corporate governance guidelines allows businesses to obtain capital at lower cost, enhances business strategy, and attracts the best human capital.
Corporate governances also promotes competitiveness in the marketplace and is an antidote to corruption. Effective corporate governance also helps ensures the integrity of business operations and strengthens the rule of law and democratic governance by promoting values of accountability and transparency.
In the last decade, Pakistan has experienced a sizeable increase in the number of unlisted companies, particularly family-owned organizations. These enterprises form the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and growth; the need for corporate governance guidelines for these particular types of companies has never been greater. Instituting good governance practices is particularly effective in overcoming the challenges many family-owned enterprises face.
CIPE partnered with the Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance (PICG) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan to assess sectoral needs and develop the Corporate Governance Guide for Family-Owned Enterprises, the first guide of its type in Asia.
To learn more about the benefits of instituting good governance practices for family-owned enterprises and how one Pakistani company improved its governance and its performance, read the latest case study from the forthcoming collection of Strategies for Policy Reform.
Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.