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In his State of the Union Address next week, President Obama will shift gears back to job creation after his inauguration speech focused on wider themes. As the debate about how the government can help the economy regain its pre-recession strength enters a new phase, the Kauffman Foundation’s annual “State of Entrepreneurship Address” last week in Washington, DC, focused on how financial constraints have been blocking the success of new and young firms that create most of the net new jobs.
Since 2005, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region leads the world in enhancing the business climate for local firms. The region overtook East Asia and the Pacific to become the second most business-friendly, after OECD high-income economies. However, one country, the Ukraine, has been described as the “rotten apple” in the region, comparing unfavorably to its neighboring countries. After meeting the “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the United States,” I decided to take a closer look.
Thousands of people from 135 countries have already confirmed their participation for next month’s week-long Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) and festival in Rio de Janeiro. As chair of the GEC for the past few years, I have witnessed the emergence of this global platform for collaboration among entrepreneurs, their investors and national leaders held outside the United States. So what happens at the GEC?
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.
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