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ECONOMYWATCH: Giving a new lease of life to entrepreneurship in The Gambia

Nov 27, 2013, 9:33 AM | Article By: Osman Kargbo

The Gambia last week joined the world in celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), which is geared towards promoting entrepreneurship, especially among young people around the world. It is therefore vital that we take a glimpse into the essence of this initiative being promoted in The Gambia the third consecutive year by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and how it means well for the Gambian aspiring and young entrepreneurs.

In Africa, the entrepreneur, unless he or she is affluent and driving an expensive car is often looked upon with suspicion and hostility. Banks have no trust in them; municipal authorities wage war against them on the streets and roadside and even the public constantly complains about them. Yet it is these people – those with ideas, ambitions, energy and the courage of their convictions – who create, build and grow economies.

While this regrettable situation continues to sap the economic fabric and growth of African nations, the West and Asian countries, such as India, China and Singapore, have turned around their economies to become some of the majoreconomies of the world through giving priority and necessary supportto the entrepreneurand small-scale businesses to operate without undue hindrance; ditto for the US, whose massive economy was not createdby General Motors, Boeing or Microsoft but by the millions of small-scale entrepreneurs constantly working to improve their businesses.

It is on this backdrop that the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Carl Schramm, the president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, in 2008 decided to launch the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) to encourage the youth to think big and turn their ideas into reality. Since then, the initiative has grown to cover over 115 countries – with nearly 24,000 partner organisations planning more than 37,000 activities that directly engage more than 7 million people.

The GEW helps out map the entrepreneurial ecosystem in those countries and enjoys the participation and support of presidents and prime ministers on every continent, including President Barack Obama (US); Prime Minister David Cameron (the UK) and other presidents and ministers focused on advancing economic growth.

Today the GEW brings together aspiring and inspiring entrepreneurs, to help them embrace originality, imagination and ingenuity through local, national, and global activities.

This year, from 18 to 24 November, millions of young people around the world joined this growing movement to generate new ideas and seek better ways of doing things.

One significant milestone in this growing trend is that The Gambia has become fully captured in this invaluable initiative. It joined over 100 countries around the world in celebrating GEW 2013 hosted in The Gambia by the American Chamber of Commerce, The Gambia Chapter (AmCham).

In The Gambia, AmCham has been organising a series of events in celebration of the week.

The highlights of these programmes included radio sensitization on young entrepreneurship; start-up forum, business breakfast, high-profile visits by AmCham directors to trade and information ministers, as well as a fund-raising business dinner to crown the activities, to be held on 29 November at the Sheraton Hotel Resort and Spa.

This laudable initiative cannot be really overemphasized, as this means giving a new lease of life to entrepreneurship promotion in The Gambia, especially for young people who are in most cases looking for jobs that are not there and are therefore living on a wing and a prayer each day of their lives.

In almost all the countries in Africa, including The Gambia, youth unemployment rates are still stubbornly high.According to the International Labour Organisation’srecent estimates, 88 million young people around the world (nearly 50 per cent of the total number of the unemployed) are struggling to find a job.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while commenting on the challenges and the risk of youth unemployment for livelihoods and security in developing countries, has said: “Rising unemployment takes a heavy toll among young people who are particularly vulnerable to shocks in the labour market. Lay-offs, restructuring and insufficient opportunities to enter the world of work condemn many to a life of economic hardship and despair. We have seen, all too often, the tragedy of young lives misspent in crime, drug abuse, civil conflict and even terrorism.”

Hence, in this dire situation, promoting GEW and youth entrepreneurship is but timely and quite essential, since a nation’s greatest business asset is its stock of small-scale entrepreneurs, who create, build and grow economies, resulting in lifting millions of people out of poverty and despair.

“GEW is one week in the year that entrepreneurship takes centre stage all over the world. It is a time during which young people and youths with innovative and creative ideas should be listened to by individuals and organisations that promote entrepreneurship education so that these ideas can be turned into reality in the form of business opportunities,” says AmCham Gambia President Abdoulie Baks Touray.

Inculcating the spirit and culture of entrepreneurship in the young people of The Gambia and the world, especially in Africa, is a path that needs no return.

Entrepreneurship is vital. Its benefits are uncountable and there is more to it than meet the senses, as it has continued to transform the lives of individuals as well as the economies of nations the world over.

The GEW indeed has ushered in a new paradigm for aspiring and inspiring entrepreneurs around the world not the least The Gambia, and with the intervention of Gambia’s AmCham in the promotion of entrepreneurship via the GEW and other conduits, entrepreneurs in The Gambia will be given a pride of place in the country’s economic growth path that will help them to let The Gambia build a brand much like the Asian Tigers have done.