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Last Friday, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress adjourned in Rio de Janeiro, ending a week of intense sessions that engaged over two thousand people from 130 countries in discussions around building stronger entrepreneurship ecosystems back home. While the Congress included Global Entrepreneurship Week host country delegations, investors and entrepreneurs, it opened last Monday with a new session for policymakers and researchers. The experiment was a success and ended with a commitment by organizers to make government policy a mainstay of the annual Congress in the future.
This week, President Obama will turn his focus from budget sequestration to immigration. A new Kauffman Foundation report released last week argues that making 75,000 Startup Visas available for current holders of H-1B and F-1 visas who start companies could create as much as 1.6 million U.S. jobs in the next 10 years. Will Washington act or, if they cannot agree, throw the baby out with the bath water?
The nurturing of new and young firms has so far not been given much attention in prominent global gatherings. International government meetings have mostly concentrated on passive SME policy and others like the World Economic Forum have treated entrepreneurs as a side ring at the circus. The maturing of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) to fill this gap is thus a welcome development.
Botswana is among Africa’s richest countries and the continent’s oldest functioning post-colonial, multi-party democracy. It has low taxes and a stable government that has been ranked as Africa's least corrupt. But it needs entrepreneurs.
Chatter about the promise of Africa is not new. Outside economists have been reminding us about relatively high GDP growth rates; China conspiracy theorists keep us informed about who is buying up the continent’s natural resources; and global aid agencies are constantly rewriting their strategies. What is new is the rise of a new generation of Africans that is actually making things happen.
While most favor bottom-up, entrepreneur-led efforts to develop robust entrepreneurial ecosystems, in Africa especially, what the government does actually matters a great deal. In the third of four posts this month on Africa, I look at Rwanda and find a country where smart government engagement has created a favorable climate for entrepreneurs.
I first visited the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana when it first opened in 2008. It was impressive then and it has continued to impress since—helping incubate promising tech startups throughout the country. Five years later, it is part of a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Accra that is laying the foundation for future growth. In our final commentary on Africa, we hear from Alicia Robb, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, who has just returned from Ghana about her thoughts on the progress being made.
Global interest in the emerging entrepreneurial economies of Latin America has been on the rise. It is where Endeavor began—launching in Chile and Argentina in 1997—and more recently, the region’s vibrant cultures have led the likes of Geeks on a Plane and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress to take a closer look. This spring we report back from a few economies in the region.
In this era of sophisticated public policy around enabling high-growth entrepreneurship, governments should be mindful to not forget the basics. A survey conducted last November in Honduras found that gang violence was forcing the closure of 1600 companies across the country. This is a good reminder that supporting startups to scale up in this part of the world must include deep institutional reforms to strengthen the rule of law and the judicial system.
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