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February promises to be a busy month in Washington for entrepreneurship policy. Next Tuesday February 8th will see Kauffman’s annual State of Entrepreneurship Address delivered by Carl Schramm followed by Capitol Hill briefings and a host of interesting activity on job creation. Today, I post from an event at the White House where President Obama has just announced a “StartUP America Partnership,” a new initiative aimed at fostering successful innovative, high growth businesses in the U.S. It marks a commitment of the current administration to a national entrepreneurship-based strategy to stimulate economic growth and the creation of quality jobs.
Last Friday, as I was meeting in my office in Washington, DC with Nazeh Ben Ammar, President of the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, now the former president of Tunisia, was fleeing his country. As my guest awaited word on when the airport would re-open and Lufthansa would be permitted to return him home to his family in Tunis, we talked about his country, entrepreneurship and a new generation of youth in the Arab region.
I report in today from Shanghai where preparations are underway for a major global summit on entrepreneurship at the end of March. The recent events in Egypt have put a spotlight on the role of a younger, well-educated generation of entrepreneurs peacefully channeling expressions of economic freedom. China has been miles ahead in reconciling a strong government with messy entrepreneurialism and offers some useful lessons for Arab nations as they grapple with enabling, rather than blocking, their citizens under the age of 25.
This past Friday I was surrounded by entrepreneurship education leaders from all sectors the Future of Entrepreneurship Education Summit, a gathering held at the University of Central Florida where actors of our entrepreneurship ecosystem met alongside established entrepreneurship educators to discuss current trends and ideas to nourish the entrepreneurship mindset.
In his 2011 State of the Union Address a couple of weeks ago, President Obama talked about the importance of innovation to create the jobs and industries of the future. A few days later, the White House released a new innovation strategy as part of the President’s plan to “win” that future. This strategy said: “America’s future economic growth and international competitiveness depend on our capacity to innovate. We can create the jobs and industries of the future by doing what America does best – investing in the creativity and imagination of our people. To win the future, we must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” A few days later the White House, in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation and Case Foundation, launched a Startup America initiative aimed at doing just this.
In 2009, the Irish economy underwent one of the deepest recessions in the EU, with its economy shrinking by as much as 10%. Late in 2010, Ireland received an €85bn financial rescue package. Clearly, the winner of Ireland´s general elections held on Sunday (according to polls so far Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny) will have a lot on his shoulders. However, if the past is any indication, Ireland has the potential to resurge economically.
We are a week away from another historic global entrepreneurship event - this time in Shanghai, China, for the annual gathering of global leaders in the entrepreneurial movement led by the Kauffman Foundation.
While entrepreneurs can be found anywhere, I take particular interest in what the most populous countries are doing to comb their citizens for entrepreneurs. Italy is the sixth most populous country in Europe, and the twenty-third most populous in the world. It also has the world's seventh-largest nominal GDP. Unfortunately, it also has the sixth highest government budget and a large public deficit, such that the economic confidence crisis in the Euro zone that sparked in Greece put a spotlight on Italy´s economy, which faces similar insolvency risk. With Italy´s public debt around 120 percent of GDP and growing, policy options are increasingly constrained. Fortunately, spurring entrepreneurship is not necessarily expensive (although it does take political commitment) and is a proven source of economic energy.
We do not have to puzzle long over what ignited the Arab Youth to take over the streets calling for reforms in their governments. The protests have been against long tyrannies, unemployment and have been fueled by the power of social media. The act that triggered the pro-democracy movement in many Arab countries, the self-immolation of a Tunisian in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, shows that the events of late are also an uprising against anti-entrepreneurial barriers. Clearly, protesters have issued a call to Arab leaders to not stifle the innovative aspirations of their people--especially the younger generation--which leaders themselves have armed through education and who are now impatient to put their education to good use.
It is an important week for entrepreneurship around the world, especially here in China where we recently wrapped up the Kauffman Foundation-led Global Entrepreneurship Congress, bringing together impressive leaders in the field from over 100 nations. In addition to launching and recognizing more than 100 national campaigns to promote entrepreneurship through this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (scheduled for November 14-20), we have witnessed this week entrepreneurship as a burgeoning phenomenon from Chile to China.
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