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Asia’s young entrepreneurs pitch for govt support at Commonwealth summit

9 December 2016

Young business leaders from Commonwealth countries in Asia have called on governments to take steps to boost cross-border trade in the region and provide entrepreneurship training for more young people.

Delegates from nine countries, representing more than 33,000 young entrepreneurs, gathered for the fifth anniversary summit of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Asia (CAYE-Asia) in London between 7 and 9 December 2016.

Mr Shaban Khalid, 2016 President of CAYE-Asia, said the alliance is seeking to help reduce barriers for trade for young people across the region, in an effort to “develop more job creators than job seekers”.

“This year’s theme has been ‘Business Across Borders’ and one of our core missions is to allow trade with the least challenges,” he said.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr Syed Ibne Abbas, both addressed the three-day summit, which included a programme of talks and visits to leading businesses in London.

In a five-point communique issued at the close of the meeting, the young entrepreneurs urge governments to expand financial literacy and entrepreneurship programmes in high schools and higher education and to invest in resources such business incubator centres.

To ease the movement of business leaders between countries, the young entrepreneurs are also calling for simplified visa processes as well as for simpler currency payment systems so traders can minimise exchange rate risks and transaction costs.

Mr Khalid said, “CAYE-Asia was formed five years ago with the core principle of bringing young people and entrepreneurs of Commonwealth Asia together and giving them a voice to communicate their concerns and challenges they face.”

“Each one of us is very passionate about the cause of promoting real cooperation and trade among our nations.”

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr Syed Ibne Abbas, said, “I see tremendous potential to deepen inter- and intra-regional trade and economic investment cooperation among Asian economies. Your role as business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs is critical in fully harnessing this potential.”

One of the aims of the summit is to help reduce youth joblessness by boosting opportunities for entrepreneurship. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and almost 73 million young people - about 40 percent of the global labour force - are seeking employment.

In her address, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland described youth unemployment as a “major crisis in the world” which harms young people’s hopes for a happy and productive life, and which has widespread effects on prosperity and peace in communities. 

“Unfortunately there are simply not enough jobs for all the young people who want and need one.  That is why the Commonwealth Secretariat, and many of our international partners, have focused our attention on ways to support young people to become job creators instead of job seekers, and it is why we are so pleased to host the CAYE-Asia Summit here today,” she said.

“Studies have shown that entrepreneurship makes a huge contribution towards wealth creation and poverty reduction. Indeed, entrepreneurship, especially for young people, is a key driver to developing the human capital necessary for the future, unleashing the economic potential of youth and promoting sustainable growth and development.

The Commonwealth Secretariat supports Commonwealth member governments to develop national policies for youth entrepreneurship and played a major role in establishing the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Asia five years ago.

Mr Khalid continued, “I am extremely proud that we have come this far in five years. Needless to say it could not have happened without the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat.”