Youth in Entrepreneurship and Democracy

Participants at a recent Youth Entrepreneurship Forum in Pakistan. (Photo: Staff)

According to the UNFPA, youth represents around 1.8 billion of the total world population. About half survive on less than $2 a day, while more than 100 million adolescents do not attend school. The countries which realize the importance of youth by emphasizing education and skills can turn youth assets into dividends. Fair and transparent systems help them to avail themselves of opportunities to contribute in the economic growth of a country.

Statistics show that in Pakistan, around 60 percent of youth (people below the age 25) constitute a mix of educated, uneducated, skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled populations.  The ratio of school-going children is increasing but still a lot needs to be done. In the past 10 to 12 years a significant number of universities in the private sector have been established in addition to a few public sector universities. A large number of students are graduating every year but they have limited opportunities for employment in either the public or private sector. As a result, the number of unemployed young people is increasing every year.

To address these challenges, colleges and universities should start focusing on practical entrepreneurial education to help students to choose entrepreneurship as a career, both for their own sustainability and to provide jobs to others. Entrepreneurship courses should be introduced. The universities and business support organizations like Chambers and Associations should work closely to organize mentorship and entrepreneurship training programs and also benefit from the research projects of university students.

In the public and private sectors, a network of incubation centers and platforms should be established across the country having a nexus with business associations, colleges, and universities to train prospective entrepreneurs.

The current national internship program has been extremely politicized. Students are given internships in the public sector only. The scope of the program should be widened in the private sector to let the college and university graduates understand the dynamics of business. This way, they will have better chances of entering the entrepreneurial world.

Corruption, one of the major discouraging factors for young people, has to be seriously addressed to encourage an entrepreneurship culture. Business association should raise their voices against unjust practices to reduce the cost of doing business. Regulatory frameworks should be made simpler to let youth come into the mainstream of the entrepreneurial world.

By becoming entrepreneurs, youth will gain a stake and a voice in the economic system. They will be able to participate more in democratic process and their contribution could be well acknowledged. Having innovative and fresh ideas, they can help the country on its march along the road to economic development. It is the responsibility of the government to provide opportunities and facilitate aspiring youth in coming forward to contribute to the economic growth of the country. One of the best ways to do this is to remove the obstacles and barriers that stop young people from becoming a useful part of society.

Majid Shabbir is the Secretary General of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry.