A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth.
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties.
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.
Young people, between 15 and 29 years old, represent over one-fourth of the world’s total population.
On average, they have higher education levels, get married and start families later than their parents’ generations, and are known for having better-than-ever access to, and knowledge of, information and communication technologies (ICTs).
In recent years, labor markets in Latin America and the Caribbean have had a steady recovery from the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009. Despite these factors, young people in the under 30's age group face higher levels of unemployment and receive lower wages than the 30-64 age group (UNFPA 2011). Medium-term projections suggest little improvement in youth labor markets will be seen, and by 2016 the youth unemployment rate is projected to remain at the same high level as in the past years.
These realities make governments and international development agencies look at ways to generate greater economic opportunities for young people. Entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative, sustainable businesses are an ideal avenue for youth employment and occupational activity.
A recently published World Bank study presents findings on entrepreneurial education and training programs leading to positive change.
Can youth entrepreneurship drive sustainable growth?
Many seem to think so, from government leaders to academics. Yet, there is a need to connect the dots, close the conversational gap, and facilitate dialogue between decision makers and young entrepreneurs. In an effort to do so, the World Bank in collaboration with The Young Americas Business Trust - an international nonprofit promoting youth development through entrepreneurship - launched a global campaign to amplify the voice of young entrepreneurs. Using social media and virtual platforms, a series of global dialogues will bring them together to discuss three key questions:
- What government programs and policies have been most successful in getting your ideas off the ground?
- What experiences have shaped your entrepreneurial philosophy, what advice would you give others?
- How can young entrepreneurs contribute to growth and shared prosperity in the developing world?
Results of the Global Dialogues would provide inputs and lead the conversation to a high-level panel on “Young Entrepreneurs as Drivers of Sustainable Growth”, a flagship event at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings that will take place in Lima, Peru. The event seeks to highlight the power of youth innovation and entrepreneurship as drivers of development and inclusive growth.
The Global Dialogues are open to the public, so if you are a young entrepreneur, a mentor, a government representative or just curious about the topic, you can find more information here www.yabt.net/youthbiz or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #youthbiz.