Youth Entrepreneurship: The Engine for Growth

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Centre for Research and Information (CRI) today (3rd July 2014) organized a “Policy Café” with the young politician and IT Adviser to the Honourable Prime Minister, Sajeeb Wazed Joy. The topic of today’s session was “Youth Entrepreneurship: The Engine for Growth”. Around hundred youth entrepreneurs from a cross section of society took part in this interactive discussion. The event was also attended and addressed by several policy makers and people specifically working in the sector of youth entreneurship. The programme started at around 4.00 pm and continued till 6.00 pm. The programme was divided into four segments for ease of discussion and interaction, namely:

i)  Regulatory framework and policy formulation for entrepreneurship growth;
ii)  Startup business model, investment and youth platforms;
iii) Access to local and international markets;
iv)  Inclusive growth and human resource development.

pc1_03072014The session started with the moderators asking Sajeeb Wazed Joy about his journey as a youth entrepreneur in 1997/98 after finishing his graduation. He mentioned his problems regarding startup funds for starting his own enterprise in USA. He drew comparison with the situation of Bangladesh and USA, specifically as regards the problems faced by budding entrepreneurs.

The participants raised a number of concerns, made a number of queries and suggestions, including:

  • Patent law of the country is an antiquated and vague. Many international Patent treaties have not been ratified yet. But patent is a big issue towards start ups, especially in the IT sector. So amendment or revision of existing legal framework is necessary;
  • A policy should be formulated on ‘garden and landscape designing’ industries for the sake of commerce and also to promote the environment;
  • In the IT industry, due to ISP locations in Bangladesh being basically Dhaka based, there is a need to solve this technical problem to promote IT entrepreneurship from the grassroots. There should be provisions for recording and archiving IP Locations, so that local and regional young entrepreneurs can target their marketing strategies and priorities;
  • Special quota should be introduced for the young entrepreneurs such as the existing ones for women in the banking and financial transactions of the government;
  • The formation of silicon-valley like IT start up models can be introduced and incentivized in Bangladesh’s stock exchanges for acquiring venture capital for the public, especially young entrepreneurs;
  • Universities and educational institutions can become an effective resource base for innovative young startups;
  • The government should take initiatives for establishing a dedicated research and development (R&D) centre or academy which will provide the necessary research and information assistance to those with good ideas but lack the technical expertise to go about the process of making an idea into a reality;
  • Following the success of Bangladesh government in launching the world’s largest web portal of government websites, the government can take the initiative to launch a dedicated web portal which will deal exclusively with information relevant and required for young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into tangible creations;
  • There is a need to provide publicized platforms for grassroots entrepreneurs to showcase and market their innovations;
  • Whether the government can allocate resources exclusively for young entrepreneurs from the climate change fund it receives or will receive in the future from international sources, especially for those investing in environmentally friendly products or services;
  •  Whether the government has any plans to formulate a special policy especially designed to promote and highlight the needs of young entrepreneurs;
  • Whether the government has any plans to provide field testing facilities in the future;
  • Whether there can be a one stop service for the Non Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) to invest in Bangladesh? How can the works of Board of Investment (BoI) and trade officers in foreign missions help more in this regard? One of the participants suggested that the commerce and trade officials present in Bangladesh missions abroad could and should be more proactive in this regard.   
  • Universities and other higher educational institutions can play a more effective role in promoting the culture of entrepreneurship among students. The participants raised the issue of there being a lack of icons or role models in the field of entrepreneurship for young people. They stressed that textbooks should include success stories of entrepreneurs in order to encourage young people into considering entrepreneurship as a viable option after their academic education comes to an end, or even during their studentships.
  • There was a recurring theme of coordinating the existing activities of the government facilitating young entrepreneurs. One of the experts present suggested that the government can consider having a special wing whose sole task is to coordinate the various existing activitries and facilities that the government is provising to young entrepreneurs. The suggestion was made that this body can be a wing in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), such as BEPZA.
  • One of the experts present stressed on the fact that there is a need to strengthening the general small and medium enterprises (SME) sector which will ultimately benefit women, youth and starting entrepreneurs;
  • Whether the government can prioritize domestic entrepreneurs, especially young ones, in acquiring government tenders of logistic supports of different projects, currently dominated by foreign companies and multinational or conglomerates;
  • The government should consider providing information on Hajj (annual Muslim pilgrimage) through such bodies as Union Information Service Centre (UISC);
  • The government should consider formulating a specific snake venom policy for extracting and exporting venoms of snakes which are indigenous to these regions, which will help earn can the nation millions of dollars in foreign currency as well as help the pharmaceutical sector of the country itself as such venoms are in high demand for medications of serious diseases and ailments such as cancer;
  • There is currently no social entrepreneurship policy in the country. It should be formulated as soon as possible to provide public the access to last mile services through the private sector;
  • There should be academic and vocational education for budding entrepreneurs. Short-term training program on startups can be designed by academics followed by certification for such courses as a means of not only training but also accrediting young entrepreneurs. University and other higher educational curricula should contain course/s on entrepreneurship and startups.

pc2_03072014Sajeeb Wazed patiently listened to all the questions, suggestions, queries and recommendations with utmost patience and interest, making his own personal notes of everything that was being discussed. He concurred with the audience present that youth entrepreneurs are the backbone of tomorrow’s economy. Facilitating their growth is in the national interest. He assured those present that the Awami League led current government considers youth entrepreneurs as the drivers of growth and are ready and willing to do everything that is within their authority and capability to facilitate their prosperity.

The IT Adviser to the Prime Minister stressed on the role of private sector in funding initial investments for innovative ideas. He recalled his own story from the Silicon Valley days when he faced tremendous obstacles in starting his own IT based business. He pointed out that young entrepreneurs can look towards venture capital as a means of financing their innovations. Mr Joy also emphasized on the point of developing a culture of entrepreneurship among youths and youngsters, especially those still in their academic lives. He assured that the suggestions he wa staking with him would be passed on to the highest policy makers of the country for their consideration and wherever possible, implementation.

He thanked everyone for their active participation. He reminded everyone about the need to have a platform for youths to voice their concerns and ideas. That is why the initiative for Policy Café was taken in the first place. He stated that he wanted to listen more than speak as he believes that the youth of Bangladesh are full of ideas which need to be listened to. He expressed his hope that the youth’s concerns would be addresses as his party and the current government considered them to be one of the most important factors in the dream to achieve “Vision 2021”, the aspiration to turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by the year 2021.

After the live programme came to an end at 6.00 pm, Mr Joy spent some time informally conversing with the participants and listening to their concerns which could not be accommodated in the stipulated two hours of the event. During this segment too, Mr Joy was extremely interested in knowing what specific actions and/or steps can be taken on part of the government or policy makers in facilitating their ideas to become innovations and taking them to the end consumers.

The event ended with Iftaar being served to the participants. He thanked CRI for organizing the programme and asked the young people to become involved with the volunteer activities of CRI in order to play a more direct role in the research of policy making. Participants than had the chance to get photographed with the young politician and share some light moments.

Guest: Sajeeb Wazed
Date: 3rd July 2014
Time: 4:00 pm to 6.00 pm
Venue: Utshav Hall, Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel, Dhaka  

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