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Colombia is the fifth-largest economy in Latin America in terms of GDP. The country boasts one of the best coffees in the world, rich natural resources, abundant gold and emerald production, and a relatively educated populace. And despite its international reputation for drug cartels and violence, the latest Doing Business 2011 ranking suggests things could be improving. Colombia is ranked number 39 among 183 countries in terms of the ease of doing business.
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.
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.
Since the economic crisis broke out, entrepreneurship has attracted increased attention as a key path to economic recovery. I was happy to see that entrepreneurs have been set apart from some of the negative perceptions of big business and the blame being placed on large financial institutions for the economic meltdown. The question is whether such recognition of entrepreneurs as an engine for growth and innovation translated into concrete pro-entrepreneurship policies.
Israel is one of the most innovative nations on earth. Israelis (approximately 7.6 million in number) are well-educated, have a global outlook, ties around the world, and most importantly, a positive view of entrepreneurship. Most Israeli entrepreneurs understand ways of moving innovations into the marketplace and how to establish themselves as global companies from the get go. It is only natural that there is so much interest around the world in Israel’s entrepreneurship path.
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.
Despite political moves that have been making foreign businesses and investors in Venezuela nervous in the past few years, entrepreneurship has managed to survive. For many Venezuelans, entrepreneurship is a way of facing the prolonged political and economic troubles in many sectors of the economy, as the Washington Post article “With Chávez, Some Venezuelan Entrepreneurs See Opportunity” explained when the President won re-election.
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.
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 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.
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