Promoting Business Environment Reform for Youth Entrepreneurship in the ACP Region
Avikesh Kumar, is a 25-year-old young social entrepreneur from Fiji, and has been involved in championing youth development in Fiji for many years. He has served as a leader for several youth organisations, among others, these include the U.S. Embassy's Youth Council in Suva, the National Youth Advisory Board under Fiji's Ministry of Youth and Sports, and Youth for Integrity. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever appointed as the deputy chair of the Serua-Namosi District Advisory Council.
Avikesh runs Bula Pulse, an enterprise which focuses on beekeeping and prioritises community development through youth engagement. Whilst Avikesh has had good success in running his business, it has not always been straightforward. He reported young entrepreneurs in Fiji often encounter common challenges when starting a business, such as difficulty in accessing finance and obtaining relevant information to support the establishment and growth of their ventures.
According to Avikesh, young people's access to opportunities for developing their businesses are hampered by poor policy and institutional conditions. For example, a lack of signposting and confidence when interacting with civil servants in Fiji make it difficult for young entrepreneurs to access support from government agencies. In addition, civil servants can lack the appropriate training and experience to provide effective service provision to young entrepreneurs, creating further barriers. Avikesh also notes that the existing state of youth entrepreneurship policy in Fiji can limit the scope of support and opportunities available to young entrepreneurs, which could otherwise broaden their prospects. Avikesh explained:
“In Fiji, one entrepreneurship vision concerns addressing youth unemployment: this promotes entrepreneurship through self-employment, such as by offering training and grants. The Ministry of Youth and Sports holds the mandate for this… Another vision focuses on investing in economic growth. The Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Tourism hold this mandate. However, there is a lack of integration between the two approaches. We need to improve policy mechanisms for engaging young people to inform part of a broader vision for entrepreneurship in Fiji. The breakdown affects the types of support and economic opportunities open to young people and opportunities to participate in other sectors that might be necessary."
Young people in the Pacific region see entrepreneurship as a positive career path, but they encounter various obstacles to starting and running a business[i], as we saw in the example of Avikesh. Accessing government support is often a challenge, as it can be fragmented and difficult to navigate. Additionally, young entrepreneurs commonly lack essential resources, such as finance, collateral, relevant social and labor market experiences, and professional networks.
Opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the Pacific and beyond
Despite these difficulties, opportunities for young entrepreneurs still exist both in the Pacific region and beyond. Young people across the ACP region face comparable issues to Avikesh, making it crucial to establish better regulatory and policy environments that can assist them in overcoming the obstacles they face while establishing and growing their businesses.
Snapshot: Youth Entrepreneurship in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions
Many governments in the ACP region have made supporting young entrepreneurs a top priority.
On average, more than one-third of young people in the ACP region work as entrepreneurs. Youth entrepreneurship levels vary significantly across regions and countries, with Sub-Saharan Africa having the highest rates of youth entrepreneurs (63%), followed by the Pacific Islands (29%) and the Caribbean (24%).
Women represent two out of every five early-stage entrepreneurs globally[ii] and entrepreneurial activity among young women in ACP countries is high. However, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), their overall entrepreneurial activity at all stages of business development remain lower than that of men. Young men are 1.3 times more likely to engage in early-stage entrepreneurial activity and 1.6 times more likely to be established entrepreneurs than women.[iii]
[i] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2018) Youth Entrepreneurship in Asia and the Pacific. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Consortium, Babson College.
[ii] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2021) 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report – From Crisis to Opportunity. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Consortium: Babson College.
[iii] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2015) Future Potential A GEM perspective on youth entrepreneurship 2015. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Consortium, Babson College.
New ICReport on Business Environment Reform (BER) for Youth Entrepreneurship
The ICR Facility’s new report on Business Environment Reform (BER) for Youth Entrepreneurship in the ACP region presents key challenges and recommendations for policymakers on how to support young entrepreneurs in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region. It highlights the significant impact of weak regulatory and policy environments on the success of young entrepreneurs and proposes a shift towards demand-side reforms that address market barriers and institutional conditions. The report also calls for a more nuanced approach to national policies that consider the unique needs of young entrepreneurs at different stages of enterprise development. Additionally, it highlights the need for better monitoring and coordination of initiatives aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs. This report provides valuable insights and recommendations for policymakers and others on how to facilitate the growth and success of youth entrepreneurship in the ACP region.
You can download the report here.
ICR Facility Webinar: BER for Youth Entrepreneurship
On 16th May the ICR Facility organised a webinar discussing BER for youth entrepreneurship across the ACP region. This webinar provided an opportunity for policymakers and stakeholders to explore solutions that can help support young entrepreneurs and create a more favourable business environment. Participants had a chance to discover key findings from the ICR Facility's latest report and hear from expert speakers sharing best practices and experiences from across the region. Additionally, breakout groups with key experts and practitioners allowed for closer engagement with peers and better understanding of the steps to be taken to support reforms that will have a positive impact on young entrepreneurs.
You can watch the recording of the Live Event here.
Insights from our Panellists
“Young people in the Caribbean need legislation that meets their social and entrepreneurial aspirations”.
In the Caribbean, there is a growing interest among young people in engaging in social and purpose-driven entrepreneurship. Christina Hunte, a young entrepreneur from Barbados, shared her motivation for entrepreneurship stems from a desire to identify business opportunities that can address societal needs or problems. According to Christina, young individuals are driven towards entrepreneurship due to its potential to help tackle societal issues. However, they encounter several obstacles to achieving business success, including difficulties in accessing financial resources.
Likewise, Cardelle Fergusson, entrepreneurship expert, Global Entrepreneurship Network in Barbados, highlighted the detrimental impact of inadequate legislative environments on the entrepreneurial potential of young people in the Caribbean, particularly in the realm of social enterprises. Cardelle explained that much of the region still lacks sufficient legislation that would empower young individuals to establish and flourish in social businesses, impeding their access to vital support and hindering their growth and success.
“Three things make reform successful for youth entrepreneurship in Africa: Posture, Participation and Processes”, – Muna Ngenda, expert in policy and economic development, fellow at Future Africa Forum.
- The Posture of the administration, its resources, and alignment of its institutions need to be responsive and geared toward change and innovation.
- Promoting Participation in policymaking of people outside of government is critical: Policymakers must incorporate the real-life experiences of young entrepreneurs when formulating policies and ensure that all stakeholders who will be impacted by the policies are actively involved in the discussions.
- The Processes of Business Environment Reform for supporting youth entrepreneurship must be clear, practical, and transparent. This will enable coordination and delivery of government commitments to youth entrepreneurship.
Responses from the ICR Facility donors
“[At the European Commission] we are really looking into coordinating our efforts working on different levels to support young entrepreneurs and we have specific objectives to support young women entrepreneurs…. This is something that is important within the EU’s new Global Gateway Strategy, which is our new European Strategy to boost Smart Clean and Secure links in the Digital, Energy, and Transport sectors, as well as improvements to strengthen the health, education and research systems across the world. To foster sustainable investments in these areas we need a thriving private sector and suppliers on the ground to deliver these objectives, and youth are a key contributor to this to help further this agenda. We are delighted with the findings in this ICR Report [to help advance these efforts] and we look forward to working more on this topic [with partners across the ACP region]”.
Joanna Kahiluoto, International Partnerships, European Commission
“At the OACPS we work to gradually integrate member countries into the world economy with the objective of reducing, and eventually eradicating, poverty. In this quest we are pursuing together, youth and women’s employment are at the center of all of our actions.
We are pleased with the way we are working with young people. Youth is the future, and I am proud to say that in many of our member countries young people prefer to create their own employment, rather than just be employees. However, as the ICReport shows, informality and issues such as collateral are a big issue we need to tackle.
Likewise, one of the things that was highlighted in the report was the challenge of balancing supply-side vs demand-side reforms. In the ACP region we have concentrated a lot on supply-side constraints, and today we have to change the mentality of our people. We have to believe in ourselves, and we as consumers have to [do things like] buy local and improve the quality of locally produced products and services.
Youth is the future but it is a collective effort. To the young entrepreneurs that are here (at the webinar) “we believe in you!” You have to believe in yourself, and we are there to help you in this quest for entrepreneurship. We look forward to hearing from you and supporting you!”
Escipión J. Oliveira, Assistant Secretary General, Sustainable Economic Transformation and Trade, Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States
ICR Facility’s series on Youth Economic Empowerment
This ICReport is part of a series on Youth Economic Empowerment. Soon you will be invited to learn more about employment opportunities for young people as well as youth representation in public private dialogues (PPDs).
The ICR Facility supported the production of this article. It is co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the British Council. The ICR Facility is implemented by GIZ, the British Council, Expertise France, and SNV. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU, OACPS, BMZ or of the implementing partners.