By Rami Shamma and Stephen Rosenlund
From the start of Lebanon’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA), with the support of CIPE, has been actively advancing the tenets of entrepreneurship across various segments of Lebanese society.
DPNA and CIPE have been implementing an entrepreneurship education project in Lebanon since 2006 under the Entrance to Enterprise / Fostering Free Enterprise in Youth banners. Within the past two years, DPNA has worked closely with the Ministry of Education’s Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD) to make high-quality entrepreneurship education available to all high school students in Lebanon. Most recently, and in conjunction with GEW 2013, DPNA has worked with the ministry to roll out a national strategy for Life-Long Entrepreneurial Learning that will reach children and adults at all levels of education. This approach also supports and encourages civil society organizations, along with public and private sector institutions, to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within Lebanese society.
Today is #GivingTuesday!! Join the global movement today by supporting CIPE’s youth initiatives – the ChamberL.I.N.K.S. program and the Think Tank LINKS Fellowship! By investing, you are developing young people’s skills to become future champions of change!
Watch videos for both programs and learn more about how to support here: http://www.cipe.org/givingtuesday/
Like many Arab Spring countries, Tunisia is experiencing a “youth bulge,” but neither that nor the lingering effects of the European financial crisis can entirely explain Tunisia’s high rate of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment in Tunisia is the result of structural issues in its education system and its labor market, as well as an ingrained understanding of “employment” based on decades of social and political development.
While talks between Tunisia’s political parties dominate the headlines, the emotional political debates going on right now belie troubling economic conditions that could prove just as debilitating to the country’s democratic transition.
Today, the unemployment rate in Tunisia among young people with a university degree is 30 percent, more than twice the 2005 rate of 14 percent. The spike in overall unemployment (now at 17 percent) is partly explained by the larger political and economic situation. Since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the economy has had a hard time regaining its pre-Arab spring growth rates. Al Qaeda’s presence in North Africa has grown in the last few years. Instability in neighboring Libya has only added to anxiety over the security situation in Tunisia, a country traditionally boasting healthy tourism revenues. Finally, demand for Tunisian exports has dried up in the European Union, Tunisia’s most important trade partner. These are well-known elements of Tunisia’s post-revolution narrative.
That’s just part of the equation, though. The European market may right itself, the Tunisian government may reassert its ability to secure the country, but Tunisia will still face the nagging issue of high unemployment among its young graduates. That 30 percent unemployment rate among recent graduates isn’t a result of just cyclical unemployment—from regional and global fluctuations—but structural unemployment.
According to the most recent Global Competitiveness Index from the World Economic Forum, the Tunisian labor market has failed to efficiently marshal its young talent to create jobs and growth. A seemingly concise diagnosis, but, when unpacked, it reveals a few phenomena that have combined for the perfect storm of youth unemployment: a gap between labor supply and demand, a prohibitively rigid labor market, and lingering cultural assumptions about self-employment and entrepreneurship.
Govinda explains the merits of a high-end cookstove to a potential customer. (Photo: Think Africa Press.)
The adjective “unskilled,” like many words favored by economists, can be highly misleading. Trying to survive on the streets in a Kenyan slum, for example, takes a lot of skills — just not ones that are easy for the market to value and reward.
Take Alex Govinda, for example: as a homeless youth in Kwangware, on the outskirts of Nairobi, he had to hustle every day just make enough money to eat, collecting and selling scraps — and sometimes stealing shoes or mobile phones, too. Now he is an expert salesperson, using his skills to hawk high-quality goods to his neighbors and earning a decent living in the process, thanks to a unique arrangement set up by an American NGO called LivelyHoods.
Govinda’s situation — and the solution LivelyHoods came up with to solve it — are a perfect illustration of the institutional forces holding millions of poor people around the world back to from reaching their true potential.
CIPE’s greatest strengths come from its partners. I am privileged to work every day with courageous individuals and organizations across the Middle East (and the world), who share our democratic values and want to help their communities achieve new freedoms and opportunity. Among them is the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA) of Lebanon, with whom CIPE has been partnered since 2006. I wrote recently about our work with DPNA, in the midst of challenging times, on CIPE’s Community of Young Entrepreneurs Blog.
Yesterday, DPNA celebrated ten years since its establishment. CIPE is honored to have played a role in DPNA’s work over much of its history. DPNA is a highly ambitious and dynamic organization. Its programs range from environmental initiatives, to humanitarian assistance, to reforming the entrepreneurship ecosystem – the field in which our cooperation is focused.
With CIPE’s support, DPNA is helping Lebanon’s youth turn their entrepreneurial ambitions into reality and become productive members of civil society through various education, training, and mentorship initiatives. As part of a national coalition to reform the Lebanese educational system, DPNA is ensuring that the principles of entrepreneurship are included in curricula at all levels of school. These are impressive feats for a small NGO from southern Lebanon.
On behalf of all of us at CIPE, congratulations to our friends at DPNA on this tremendous milestone, and best wishes for another ten years of even greater success!
Stephen Rosenlund is Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa & CIPE.
A participant in the EmprendeAhora youth entrepreneurship program in Peru shows off some of his products.
In today’s world, enterprising youth who attempt to expand their businesses have exciting opportunities and also face serious challenges. Unsurprisingly, these young people around the world are coming together and finding innovative ways to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities.
In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, three winners from CIPE’s 2012 International Youth Essay Competition in the Inclusive Growth category discuss what opportunities young entrepreneurs have in expanding their businesses and the challenges they face. Each author describes how youth in their country are meeting this challenges and the tools that they are using to do so.
Young people are pushing for systemic, democratic changes around the world through political and economic vehicles. In Cambodia last month, youth (who are frustrated with corruption of the current ruling party and the status quo) vocalized their desire for change before the national elections took place. In Sri Lanka, Youth Parliamentarians have been consulting with senior policy makers to make sure their opinions and inputs are heard. And in Jordan, young tech entrepreneurs are building a movement to reverse the controversial media censorship law through advocacy.
In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, three winners from CIPE’s 2012 International Youth Essay Competition in the Social Transformation category discuss how youth entrepreneurs are helping build democratic societies. Want to make your voice heard? CIPE is accepting submissions from bloggers of all ages for our 2013 Blog Competition.