Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Participants at the Young Entrepeneurs' Forum event. (Photo: CIPE Staff)

“The Young Entrepreneurs’ Forum is committed to addressing the prevalence of barriers that prevent aspiring entrepreneurship from taking the first step towards an entrepreneurial career” – Shaban Khalid, Chairman, YEF.

Promoting entrepreneurship is an important priority for Pakistan’s economic development. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2010 report, Pakistan lags in startups, with less than half the rate of early-stage entrepreneurial activity found in other factor-driven economies. Part of the problem is that most young people coming out of universities prefer searching for a job instead of exploring entrepreneurial career opportunities – one of the key findings of CIPE-P@SHA dialogue with students and start-ups. Even young people who choose to enter paid employment often have trouble finding a job, are badly paid, or wind up in casual or informal jobs, according to the World Bank.

To help encourage a more entrepreneurial spirit among young people, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently organized a major conference for young entrepreneurs focusing on the theme of “Inspiring a New Wave of Entrepreneurship,” part of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Established in 2008, the goal of the Forum is to encourage young entrepreneurs to take on a role in policy advocacy and nurturing the next generation chamber leadership. The conference was sponsored by the US Embassy, with additional support from CIPE Pakistan.

In his welcome address, Yasser Sakhi Butt, President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that “the potential benefits of youth entrepreneurship for improving livelihoods, expanding economy and promoting jobs have not been fully realized in Pakistan.”

One of the major themes of the conference was how Pakistanis who live abroad, many of whom have been successful in business, can support entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Aakif Ahmed, who represented the Pakistani Diaspora Community at the conference, concluded that the community needs to overcome the barrier between Pakistani and Pakistani-Americans. Building trust between these two communities is essential in order to help Pakistan.

A portal to connect the Pakistani American Diaspora with potential entrepreneurs in Pakistan was also launched at the conference:

In her video message to the participants of the conference Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

“It is an honor to help bring so many talented young people together in one place to talk about how entrepreneurship can promote economic growth, peace and prosperity in Pakistan – The United States is working to promote entrepreneurship around the world through initiatives like our Global Entrepreneurship Program and by working with organizations like Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry”

During the conference, three breakout sessions were also organized to generate recommendations on promoting the participation of women in entrepreneurship and on social entrepreneurship development.

Hammad Siddiqui, Deputy Country Director, CIPE-Pakistan, led the session on social media at the conference. He has previously written on the blog about how social media is shaping debate in Pakistan.