CIPE Development Blog Strengthening democracy through private enterprise and market oriented reform Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Job Seeker or Job Creator? Global Entrepreneurship Week in Pakistan Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:51 +0000 READ MORE]]> gsm_doorbell

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?

I asked what an entrepreneur is. The interviewer explained, and I said to the interviewer that I can’t become an entrepreneur (I did not think about my career that way) as I am here for a job. He said all right, we will get in touch with you soon, and after that nothing happened!

But if we go through the course outline and curriculum of any engineering program in Pakistan, we come to the conclusion that engineers are well positioned to become entrepreneurs. Pakistan has 102 engineering universities accredited by Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) under which 303 programs are being taught, however, there are hardly any courses offering education on entrepreneurship (see this electronic engineering course outline). That’s why most engineering graduates have only one vision: to seek a job after graduation.

Engineering programs in Pakistan are usually taught over 4 years. The central idea of what you learned in your engineering studies is applied in the last year through a final year project, which is usually a product of some kind. After graduation, the only visible thing an engineer can sell in the market is a product; my product, for example, was a biometric security system (my final year project). But instead of trying to sell this product, I was aiming for a job. I did manage to get a job but my product was kept under the carpet.

According to the Overseas Pakistanis Ministry, more than 2.7 million Pakistanis left Pakistan for work in the last 5 years. The top six destinations are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the United States, the UK, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman), and EU countries. Pakistan is producing a vibrant young population, where brain drain does not matter, however there is a need to create an entrepreneurship curriculum in the engineering education system — one that encourages students to adapt entrepreneurship as their career alternative if there is a scarcity of jobs in the market.

Emad Sohail is a Senior Program Officer for CIPE Pakistan.

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The Entrepreneurship Café – Advancing Entrepreneurship, Lebanese-style Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:37:56 +0000 READ MORE]]> entrepreneurship-cafe

By Rami Shamma and Stephen Rosenlund

The Lebanese have contributed to the Middle East (and for that matter the wider world) a renowned tradition of arts and design, which was no less evident than in the Development for People and Nature Association’s (DPNA’s) fourth consecutive year of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) programming. A leading GEW partner in Lebanon and longtime CIPE partner, DPNA used this year’s celebration of entrepreneurship as an opportunity to bring its new series of “Entrepreneurship Cafés” to Beirut.

With CIPE’s support, DPNA is hosting a series of six Entrepreneurship Cafés across Lebanon to identify the priorities of young people to build a culture of entrepreneurship and reform the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Lebanon. Unlike traditional roundtable-style workshops, these events are designed to evoke the free flow of ideas, candor, and creativity of Lebanon’s café culture. Each café brings together young people from the community to discuss various dimensions of the entrepreneurship ecosystem – personal, familial, financial, legal, societal, governmental, and media – and to identify solutions to the challenges they are facing.

Participants debate the issues at Entrepreneurship Café Saida, held at DPNA’s el Moltaqa.

Participants debate the issues at Entrepreneurship Café Saida, held at DPNA’s el Moltaqa.

Much like an actual café, these events create safe space for young people to debate the toughest issues of the day with their peers in a casual atmosphere. In this case, the conversation is directed at their quest to become entrepreneurs or otherwise engage constructively in civic life and is structured so as to allow for comparative analysis. At each café, participants cycle among small groups and examine each discussion topic in turn. A small group records and leaves behind the results of its deliberations so the next group can build on them. Ultimately, DPNA will analyze the results of the entire café series in order to distill the common priorities of young Lebanese for building the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

DPNA and CIPE believe in collective efforts that lead to positive change in the community. The Entrepreneurship Cafés are thus conducted in partnership with active local organization(s) in six different locations all over Lebanon. The first Entrepreneurship Café was held in Saida, in El Moltaqa, which is a social enterprise itself, with 30 participants. The Beirut event was in collaboration with two institutions:

  • hbr creative platform and design lab – an enterprise that “provides a space where design awareness and understanding of various disciplines and qualities are explored, developed, and celebrated through collaboration between creative individuals, innovative events, activities, and products”, and
  • WARD – Welfare Association for Research and Development – a newly founded Lebanese NGO that works on promoting entrepreneurship education in Lebanon.
DPNA’s Rami Shamma speaks to participants at Entrepreneurship Café Beirut, held during GEW at hbr creative platform and design lab.

DPNA’s Rami Shamma speaks to participants at Entrepreneurship Café Beirut, held during GEW at hbr creative platform and design lab.

Entrepreneurship Café Beirut welcomed 34 university students and graduates and their discussions centered on the challenges and opportunities that youth face in starting their own businesses in Lebanon. Moreover, they proposed solutions involving public institutions, the private sector, and civil society. The voices from the café are clearly calling for a whole of society approach to bringing about more inclusive entrepreneurship.

In the coming weeks, DPNA will be implementing the next four Entrepreneurship Cafés in other regions of Lebanon and will be launching at a press conference the findings and solutions developed by Lebanon’s young leaders. Stay tuned to DPNA’s Facebook Page for more photos and news about the future of this exciting initiative.

Rami Shamma is Project Manager at the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA) in Lebanon.

Stephen Rosenlund is Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

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CIPE Women’s Hangout on Leadership and Advocacy: Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment Globally Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:56:07 +0000 READ MORE]]>

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.

Valenti shared her experiences and dedication to the tourist industry in Nicaragua. Hundaileh spoke about her experience of launching her own business in chocolate production by starting the first chocolate factory in Jordan, eventually exporting 60 percent of her production. Through her work in the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association, Hundaileh has been an active member of Jordanian civil society, helping women start their own businesses and increase their participation in the economy.

One important tool to increasing women’s economic participation in the economy has been a Women’s National Business Agenda. Such has been the experience of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) and the Nicaraguan Network of Businesswomen. Valenti shared REN’s work on the launch of the Women’s National Business Agenda that targets all economic sectors and pointed out that this is the first time that women have become involved in advocating for economic issues in Nicaragua. Valenti highlighted the important contribution women’s businesses make to the economy. The economic agenda identified four main topics based on consultations with women business owners — access to credit, capacity building for women entrepreneurs, women’s leadership, and legislation. Women are not familiar with the laws that affect their businesses and the benefits that are available to them, and need leadership training in order to succeed as business owners, Valenti said.

Similarly, BWCCI launched the inaugural Women’s Business Agenda in 2009, which contained 30 concrete policy recommendations. The WNBA increased landing to women business owners, secured space at markets so that women entrepreneurs can sell their goods, and eased the business registration process.

The panelists discussed the importance of establishing women-only chambers of commerce and industry in order to bring attention to the needs of women business owners. The conversation demonstrated the convergence of the barriers as well as opportunities women entrepreneurs and business owners face around the world. Check out the full Google Hangout recording here.

Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.

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A New, Entrepreneurial Growth Model for South Korea Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:13:57 +0000 READ MORE]]> Korea's rapid economic ascent over the past few decades was powered by huge conglomerates like Samsung.

Korea’s rapid economic ascent over the past few decades was powered by huge conglomerates like Samsung. Now the country is aiming to encourage more startups and entrepreneurs.

By Tyler Makepeace

The Republic of Korea is one of the greatest economic development success stories in history — going from one of poorest countries in the world and a major aid recipient to a high-income country and a major aid donor in just a single generation. Both the head of the World Bank and the United Nations claim Korea as their birthplace.

The “Miracle on the Han River” which led to Korea’s stunning economic growth was based on an export-oriented industrialization model, similar to that of Japan, Taiwan, and later China. However, this model of fast growth has now run its course, and for Korea to continue onto the next stage of economic development it will require a different model for economic growth based on an innovative society.

In response to this need, President Park Geun-hye announced in her 2013 inaugural speech the beginning of the “Second Miracle on the Han River” through a new policy called the Creative Economy. This initiative seeks to create a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs and SMEs, especially in the tech sector, in order to boost job creation and pursue greater economic democratization within the country.

The Creative Economy policy, in seeking to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, puts into action many of the policies discussed in CIPE publications, such as the recent report entitled “Creating the Environment for Entrepreneurial Success.” CIPE programs aim to improve the operating environment for businesses by building the institutions of a market economy, reducing barriers to doing business, and promoting an inclusive entrepreneurial culture.

The specific plans seek to build entrepreneurship through a variety of reforms and initiatives:

Structural Reforms: One of the first initiatives of the Creative Economy was the creation of the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (MSIP), in order to create a bureaucracy equipped to enable the goals of the new policy.

Preferential Polices: The Park administration instituted tax cuts and delayed deadlines for income tax for investors in startups.

Startup Funding: The government pledged $2.92 billion to fund startups, with an emphasis on tech startups, as well as $89 million to aid entrepreneurs after a failure.

Developing an Entrepreneurial Culture: While entrepreneurs are highly regarded in the U.S., in Korea there is a much greater preference for stable jobs in large corporations like Samsung. In order to develop more positive and supportive attitudes towards entrepreneurship, President Park has held public meetings with successful U.S. entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg, and also visited many famous Korean startups.

It is still far too early to judge the efficacy of specific initiatives within the Creative Economy, however, the policies outlined provide a series of steps that policymakers who wish to develop an economic growth plan based on innovation can adapt to their own specific circumstances.

Tyler Makepeace is a Knowledge Management intern at CIPE.

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FEDECAMARAS Promotes Entrepreneurship in Venezuela Despite Difficulties Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:14:35 +0000 READ MORE]]> roig-fedecamaras

The political and economic climate in Venezuela has become increasingly hostile for entrepreneurs and the private sector since 1998, when Hugo Chávez became president and ushered in his “Bolivarian Revolution” — a series of sweeping economic and political changes aimed at helping the poor which instead led to high inflation, shortages of basic goods, and the growth of a large informal sector.

Moreover, Chávez frequently accused the private sector of conspiring with the CIA, the domestic opposition, the Colombian government, and other actors to topple his presidency and the Bolivarian Revolution. The resulting social and political cleavages among Venezuelans have become so strong that political disagreements have even created bitter feuds among family members.

Since 2013, CIPE has been working with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Production (FEDECAMARAS) to strengthen the capacity of local entrepreneurs and promote the values of democracy and free market initiative in Venezuela. FEDECAMARAS is a private, non-profit civil association with over 250 business association members encompassing 13 business sectors and 23 regional state chambers. Despite the hostile political and economic climate that took root under Chávez and has persisted under his successor Nicolás Maduro, FEDECAMARAS has worked tirelessly to strengthen the Venezuelan business climate through the principles of economic freedom and democracy.

The centerpiece of CIPE’s project with FEDECAMARAS is a program called “Learning to Be an Entrepreneur.” Through this initiative, 94 entrepreneurs from the Venezuelan states of Lara, Trujillo, and Zulia receive training in entrepreneurship, innovation, and business model development. The participants come from a variety of industries, including professional services, trade, sales, and design.

An impressive 61 percent of the participants are women, which is a notable achievement for a country in which the concept of machismo (male dominance) has strong roots. After receiving their training and connecting with other entrepreneurs, participants prepare to inaugurate a local Entrepreneurship Club in their city of origin. To date, Entrepreneurship Clubs have been established in Caracas, Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Valera, and Maracaibo, and have brought together nearly five hundred entrepreneurs.

During a visit to Washington, DC, FEDECAMARAS president Jorge Roig met with CIPE staff to reflect upon the seventieth anniversary of FEDECAMARAS and to discuss the current political and social climate in Venezuela. Roig emphasized that a key element of FEDECAMARAS’ work is to show Venezuelans that the private sector, far from being the cause of Venezuela’s economic problems (a perennial accusation in the government’s discourse), can play an important role in alleviating Venezuela’s economic woes.

While recognizing that it can be challenging for Venezuela’s private sector to maintain productivity given restrictive legislation, Roig observed that entrepreneurs welcome challenges and devise innovative solutions during times of crisis. Moreover, because both Chávez and Maduro have attempted to portray entrepreneurs in a negative light, FEDECAMARAS has also worked to dispel unfavorable images of entrepreneurs among Venezuelans. While the Venezuelan government has tried to characterize entrepreneurs as cold, detached, and self-centered, the reality is that entrepreneurs pay close attention to the people around them and cannot be successful by thinking only about their own needs; rather, they need to be agents of change and work to improve the wellbeing of their communities.

Roig affirmed that in Venezuela, true entrepreneurs have understood that a sense of social responsibility is not only a necessity, but a good business practice. Thus, entrepreneurs can play an important role in the effort to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights in Venezuela in addition to stimulating economic growth in the country.

The eight-part interview that Jorge Roig held with CIPE staff during his visit to Washington, DC is available on YouTube with English subtitles and in the original Spanish.

Kevin Gatter is a Program Assistant for Latin America & the Caribbean at CIPE.

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Reforming the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem: A Study on Barriers to Growth in Tunisia and Egypt Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:42:03 +0000 READ MORE]]> stanford-study-chart

The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 were sparked by citizen frustration based on a range of grievances including lack of opportunity, dissatisfaction with local governance, corruption, and unemployment. The public self-immolation by Tunisian informal entrepreneur, Mohamed Bouazizi, was a shocking demonstration of the frustration and hopelessness felt by some sectors of society and led to calls for political and economic reforms to address citizen grievances. Today, however, North African economies still urgently need economic reforms to promote greater economic inclusion and provide opportunities for youth.

The Center on Development, Democracy, and the Rule of Law at Stanford, in cooperation with CIPE, has conducted a survey of 131 Egyptian and Tunisian entrepreneurs and business owners to find what that the greatest barriers are to the growth of businesses in these countries. As Global Entrepreneurship Week comes to a close, CIPE is releasing an Economic Reform Feature Service article by Amr Adly about the study to contribute to the continuing conversation on supporting entrepreneurs around the world.

Article at a glance:

  • This article summarizes the main barriers to entry and growth as experienced by entrepreneurs and business owners in Egypt and Tunisia, and looks at regional
    differences within each country, differences between formal and informal enterprises, and differences by gender of business owners.
  • Top barriers to growth in 2013 were reported to be political instability and public disorder, administrative inefficiency, and restrained access to finance. Even among formal businesses, informal mechanisms often compensate for the absence of effective state institutions and the rule of law.
  • Administrative reforms and deeper investments in infrastructure and human capital are needed to build the business-friendly ecosystem needed to generate jobs, grow the economy, and create opportunities for all citizens.

Read the article here.

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Entrepreneurship for Social Good in Peru Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:30:31 +0000 READ MORE]]>
(Ver en español.)

Opportunities in Bambamarca, Peru, are not plentiful. For most people, earning enough just to get by can be a challenge. Earning enough to employ others, send your children to school, and invest in more sustainable business practices are luxuries which most in this small district in the Cajamarca department don’t have. The average household income reaches just barely $100 per month and most Bambamarquinos don’t have electricity or running water. Many cannot read.

Despite these challenges, one Bambamarca native decided to invest his time, money, and opportunities back into the community. Videlmo Maluquish Silva is a young entrepreneur who participated in the inaugural EmprendeAhora youth leadership and entrepreneurship training program in 2008. Since 2008, EmprendeAhora has been bringing college students from every region of Peru together with a focus on creating entrepreneurs who understand the value of democracy and the responsibility of the private sector to improve the economic opportunities in their communities.

Combining the agricultural science background he gained through his university studies with the business and civic education he received from EmprendeAhora, Videlmo formed a partnership with Vanessa Rubina, a 2009 EmprendeAhora grad, and returned to Bambamarca to found BIOALTURA, a cooperative of associated small scale farmers of aguaymanto (also known as uvillas or ground cherries). BIOALTURA focuses on increasing productivity and the capacity of its farmers, but what really sets it apart from other similar cooperatives is its focus on women as the main business partners. BIOALTURA works with female heads of household, placing the power of decision making in their hands.

In 2013, CIPE staff traveled to Bambamarca and visited some of BIOALTURA’s farmland. There, they met some of the farmers, including Amelia Lara de Fuentes, who has been a BIOALTURA farmer since its foundation. Amelia’s family benefited in remarkable ways from the BIOALTURA model.

Not only did Amelia’s household income quadruple over the first three years, she also no longer needed to participate in migratory farming – a common practice among many Andean farmers who must move to the coast during certain growing times, but which often results in net losses, not to mention familial upheaval when children must leave school to accompany parents.

Videlmo’s story is a part of a series of videos from the field showcasing positive examples of how EmprendeAhora alumni are putting into practice their entrepreneurial skills to advance economic and democratic development in Peru. Be sure to check out the previous episode, which highlighted Jorge Cueva who opened an eco-lodge.

Laura Boyette is Program Coordinator for Latin America & the Caribbean.

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Strengthening Entrepreneurial Skills among Women in Nicaragua through Mentorships Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:26:59 +0000 READ MORE]]> ren-nicaragua

This post was written by REN Nicaragua. 

Watch a women’s entrepreneurship Google Hangout featuring REN founder Lucy Valenti.

UNDP research shows that in Nicaragua, young people face an unemployment rate twice as high as the adult population. Young women also face much higher rates of unemployment (46% unemployed female vs 16.8% unemployed male). Moreover, the leading cause for unemployment in the country is a lack of work experience.

Recognizing these difficult challenges faced by women in Nicaragua, the Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) works to overcome them. With a vision of increasing women’s economic and social development, REN is a professional network representing over 200 women-owned businesses which focuses on developing women’s entrepreneurial capacity and skills.

In July 2014, REN launched the CIPE supported, nine-month program “Strengthening Entrepreneurial Skills among Women in Nicaragua.”  Following a successful five-month pilot phase, this is the second program of its kind led by REN.

The program’s main objective is to encourage entrepreneurship among young women and strengthen the capacity of women micro-entrepreneurs through mentorships. The two groups of beneficiaries for this initiative are female university students and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs, and they are all paired with successful businesswomen. REN matched ten teams (each mentorship team consists of a micro-entrepreneur, mentor, and an intern) for this project.

The students intern at their mentor’s company to learn basics of what it takes to run a firm, and they also work with their mentors to support the micro-entrepreneurs with technical assistance to improve their businesses. Simultaneously, the university students and the micro-entrepreneurs are provided with networking and professional development opportunities to expand their skills and knowledge.

Benefits for the participants

When REN was pairing up the matches, they took into consideration opportunities for self-growth and leadership development for the students, as well as potential business alliances for the micro-entrepreneurs.

One good example of a strategic pairing is the partnership of Carmen Davila, the owner of Carmelitas Coffee (she roasts coffee and commercializes her own brand). Davila mentors Flora Ortiz, the owner of Rosquillas Delicias del Bosque, which produces typical Nicaraguan cookies that are usually eaten with coffee. Davila is currently working with Ortiz on commercializing the  Rosquillas Delicias del Bosque’s products with a package of her coffee, since they found an opportunity to sell their goods together. The intern working with Davila is creating a marketing strategy to increase the sales of Davila’s products.

Similarly, Blanka Callejas, who co-owns a company that produces and commercializes jam and other ingredients that are used by bakeries, is mentoring Lua’s Martinez, who runs a local bakery that produces tres leches. The two were matched because they both specialize in baked goods, and there are possible business linkages. In fact, their intern is working to create a business strategy for a partnership between Callejas and Martinez’s businesses.

For the university students, this mentorship program is an opportunity to think about their future goals. As Eloisa Washington, intern for the company Rosquillas Delicias del Norte shared with REN before the commencement of the program: “I am excited to expand my knowledge on the functioning of micro-enterprise companies and expand my horizons as a future entrepreneur.” Similarly, Ruth Cuadra, university intern with Lua’s Bakery, shared that she “looks forward to acquiring new professional skills, and gaining professional experience, that will be meaningful on my resume. I’m honored to work with empowered entrepreneurial women who are role models for many women business-owners.”

This initiative aligns with REN’s mission to promote gender equality by empowering women entrepreneurs to reach their professional goals, strengthen their professional networks, and affect overall positive change in the lives of entrepreneurial women in Nicaragua. REN is excited to see what will come out of result of this project.

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Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh through Policy Advocacy Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:44:25 +0000 READ MORE]]> BWCCI founder Selima Ahmad received the Oslo Business for Peace Award earlier this year.

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.

BWCCI has achieved remarkable success in terms of organizational development and policy advocacy. The chamber membership has increased its membership to 3,500 throughout several national branches, has held its first board elections, and continues to engage with members through a variety of channels.

On the policy front, BWCCI developed the inaugural Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA), which proposed 30 reform recommendations aimed at improving the entrepreneurial environment for women business owners. Policy achievements included the Central Bank of Bangladesh issuing instructions to commercial banks to increase lending to women-owned businesses, including collateral-free loans at a reduced interest rate. So far, $93 million in SME loans have been provided to almost 10,000 women, creating thousands of jobs.

More than 65 percent of Bangladeshi banks have “dedicated desks” for women borrowers, staffed with specially-trained personnel who can address their needs and ease the business procedures for women. Read more about the remarkable story of BWCCI in empowering women economically here.

Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.

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Building a Network of Women Entrepreneurs in Serbia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:05:34 +0000 READ MORE]]> serbia-business-women

By Olivera Popović

While the global economic crisis in 2008 affected many countries worldwide, the shock to Serbia’s society and economy was magnified due to the ongoing transition processes there. For the past fifty years, women in Serbia were most often employed in the public sector as part of Yugoslavia’s socialist planned economy. In the past two decades, the transition from socialism to liberal capitalism and an open market economy has initiated changes in approaches to work and ultimately led to a greater presence of women in business.

In making this transition, women face an uphill battle – in gaining greater access to capital, technology, networks, and acquiring the knowledge to start and grow their businesses. On top of those challenges, the social and economic landscape is characterized by poor labor market outcomes, a high youth unemployment rate, and large long-term unemployment. According to the Regional Cooperation Council (2013), the country’s per capita GDP is currently only 38 percent of the EU average.

Data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that the overall unemployment rate in Serbia is 23.9 percent, with almost 25 of women unemployed. Youth unemployment is remarkably high (51 percent) and even more astonishing, 57 percent of young women are out of work. Equally important, universities in Serbia do not foster enough entrepreneurial spirit among students. Consequentially, students fail to fully consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option.

Recognizing this need for support to aspiring and established women entrepreneurs in a complex economic situation, the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) created “Inspiring Women Entrepreneurship,” a project to strengthen the leadership and entrepreneurial capacity of young women in Serbia.

Through a formal mentoring program, ABW places special emphasis on:

  • Spreading awareness about entrepreneurship as a career option for women
  • Building a network of women entrepreneurs in Serbia
  • Promoting young women entrepreneurs and their businesses
  • Acknowledging the work of women entrepreneurs
  • Inspiring and motivating other potential women entrepreneurs to become independent professionally as well as leaders in their communities

Testimonials from the young entrepreneurs and students in our project highlight the impact these efforts have had on empowering women entrepreneurs and providing the necessary skill set to succeed:

  • Marija Savić, a second year student at University of Singidunum Faculty of Business in Valjevo. “Though I knew what I wanted to do, the trainer helped me to realize how much I wanted to do it and helped me find a good path.”
  • Katarina Kovačević, University of Singidunum Faculty of Business in Valjevo. “At the end of the training, I had a better understanding of my professional strengths and weaknesses. Also, now I have a clearer picture of which competencies I need to improve upon or attain. At the same time, the training inspired me to assess and evaluate my readiness to achieve previously defined business goals. Some of the techniques that I learned I tend to use in my personal and professional life with hope that it can bring me clear and effective results.”
  • Jovana Pumpalovic, a third year student at the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Cacak. “I think that the project ‘Inspiring Women Entrepreneurship in Serbia’ was valuable for women business owners, but even more so for us students who study entrepreneurship. Participating in the project, we increased our self-confidence by acquiring new knowledge and networking with business women.”
  • Jelena Nikolic – final year student at the Faculty of Technical Sciences and member of the NGO Suadeo in Cacak. “Initially when I received the open call for training, I thought this would be like one of many trainings, seminars, and conferences on entrepreneurship that I’ve attended as a member of an NGO dealing with economy. But I am glad that I was wrong. This training brought me so many helpful tools for practical use at work. Equally important, I managed to change my attitudes towards business in a positive way… After this training I see myself as becoming a successful, young entrepreneur in the future, either in my family’s start-up business or in my own.”

ABW’s support gives the much-needed push to put women’s entrepreneurship at the top of Serbia’s policy agenda. We hope that our work will contribute to greater women’s participation in the economy at the local level, but even more so at the regional and national level.

Individually, our Association is confident that economic independence will have an impact on better quality of life for women and their families. For society, empowering women improves the economy and reduces poverty.

We are striving towards a society that sees women as equally capable of creating their lives and pursuing careers in line with their aspirations. In return, the greater share of women in entrepreneurship will have an impact on the overall development of the entrepreneurial culture in Serbia.

Olivera Popović is  Vice President of the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW).

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