By Elie Obeid
Lebanon, it’s that country in the Middle East that you sometimes miss while going through a map. Despite its small size, Lebanon enjoyed quite a reputation in the 1960s and early 1970s as being the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut, its capital, was known as the Paris of the Middle East due to the number of tourists it attracted and its role as a financial and trade hub for the region.
In recent years, however, Lebanon has been suffering from various social, political, economic problems. To discuss all these issues and possible solutions for them would require volumes so we’ll stick to economics this time with a little twist of politics. But before getting into that, how about we take a look at the numbers first.
“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”
Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.
Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete). This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.
In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.
Under the banner of “Identity, Community, Vision,” over 1,300 delegates from around the world gathered in Turin, Italy on June 10 to attend the World Chambers Congress. The main focus of the three day event was how to strengthen small and medium enterprises (SMEs) worldwide to create jobs. Organizers focused on the need to create enabling environments for these businesses to grow and prosper – especially when it comes to youth and entrepreneurs.
“Chambers of Commerce play an increasingly important role in the global economy and are central to the International Chamber’s vision to promote trade as a driver of growth, jobs and sustainable development,” International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Chairman Terry McGraw told the delegates. “The World Chambers Congress is an essential forum to promote knowledge sharing between chambers from around the world – driving real development of public-private partnerships.”
By Fayyaz Bhidal, Research Manager at Sustainable Development Policy Institute
Internationally, the average age of eligibility for election to national parliament starts at 25 years old. According to a UNDP 2012 Global Parliamentary Report, approximately 1.65 percent of parliamentarians globally are in their 20s, while 11.87 percent are in their 30s. However, the global average age of parliamentarians is 53 years old.
In Pakistan, youth represent 60 percent of the total population, but their voice is largely unrepresented in the political system. The youth population is not only a dynamic source of innovation and creativity, but has contributed to and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics, and economic opportunities since Pakistan was created. One leading force for these changes is the Youth Parliament of Pakistan which was created in 2007 to engage youth in dialogue on important issues affecting Pakistan. Within local government, youth are also taking an active role in achieving implementation of work. In the recently held local government polls of Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province of Pakistan, 3,339 seats were devoted for the youth.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank
Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.
Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.
Shell Pakistan procurement manager Mehnaz J. Mohajir speaking at a CIPE compliance training event in Karachi in October 2014.
The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has been working in Pakistan for the past eight years encouraging private sector-driven economic reform and increasing the role of the private sector in the country’s democratic process.
CIPE’s Pakistan office just released its 2014 Pakistan Activities Report, which profiles an array of innovative programs that encourage private sector inclusion in the policy-making process. Highlights include:
- CIPE partner the Policy Research Institute of the Market Economy (PRIME), an Islamabad-based think tank, developed three “scorecards” that track how well the government has implemented its economic reform agenda. The reports are available at http://govpolicyscorecard.com.pk/. These reports show that the government has made little progress toward implementing the reforms promised in its election manifesto.
- CIPE Pakistan began a new program this year that mobilizes the private sector as a leading force in reducing bribery, extortion, and other forms of corruption. CIPE organized activities with its partner the Overseas Investor Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) to highlight the anti-corruption and corporate compliance issues faced by mid-sized firms seeking to enter global supply chains, and provided training and tools to help these companies develop anti-corruption programs in their organizations.
- CIPE, its partners, and other organizations continued to organize activities to promote the culture of entrepreneurship in Pakistan. CIPE, in association with the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, organized a conference titled “How corruption hampers entrepreneurship?” Students from various universities participated in the discussions and developed a greater understanding of the importance of combating the corrupt practices that hinder business activity in the country.
- Four key chambers from Karachi, Islamabad, Gujranwala and Faisalabad organized the annual “All Pakistan Chambers President Conference.” This event provided the business community with the opportunity to discuss the government’s performance on economic reforms and share their concerns over the lack of progress in a number of areas.
- CIPE held workshops and seminars with women chambers to help them build their membership, strengthen their internal governance processes, and improve their management capacity.
- CIPE continued to work with partners such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the World Bank, and International Finance Corporation (IFC) to press for the implementation of the Rules of Corporate Governance for Public Sector Companies, and to highlight how corporate governance can strengthen family-owned companies.
In 2015, CIPE Pakistan, through the support of its partners and with valuable guidance from its Project Advisory Committee, will continue to serve and strengthen democracy through private sector driven market-oriented reforms.
Read the full 2014 Pakistan Activities Report here.
Emad Sohail is Senior Program Officer for CIPE Pakistan.
“In the absence of adequate job creation by the public or private sectors, it is more important to enhance financial inclusion, which can help create greater opportunities for self-employment instead of salaried employment.” Tameer Microfinance Bank CEO Nadeem Hussain
Pakistan is one of the top ten most populous countries in the world. Youth make up over 36 percent of the Pakistani labor force, and that proportion is projected to rise to 50 percent by 2050. According to the World Bank there will be 1.7 million Pakistanis entering the country’s labor force every year, yet, worryingly, the Pakistan labor force survey also finds that over 3.7 million people are currently unemployed. The yearly upsurge in the unemployment rate is putting additional weight on the shoulders of the Pakistan government. The government must reassess and make needed reforms in order to change the current trajectory and allow Pakistan to reap the benefits of its demographic dividend.