December 12th, 2012
12:38 PM ET

Entrepreneurship key to engaging global youth

By Zeenat Rahman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Zeenat Rahman serves as Special Adviser to the U.S Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues. You can follow her @zeenat. The views expressed are her own.

Young people are at the center of global events. This is not a platitude, but a fact, given that half of the world’s population is under the age of 30. We live in an era dubbed the age of human talent, and this human capital is a fundamental driver of economic development. But how can we best harness the talent of youth populations and create new pathways for progress? Entrepreneurship, defined by innovation, creativity, and economic advancement, is key to leveraging this talent and forging new paths as entrepreneurs and young people around the world share many of the same traits.

Emerging powers are increasingly putting economics at the center of their foreign policies, and with at least 75 million young people globally, if not more, seeking access to meaningful livelihoods, this demographic is an economic reality that policy makers cannot ignore. Instituting meaningful ways to engage the natural talents of young people, while also addressing the economic challenges this demographic faces, make entrepreneurship initiatives so critical to help solve global challenges.

In 2009, President Barack Obama highlighted entrepreneurship as a pillar of U.S. global engagement, underscoring the importance of entrepreneurship as one of the most powerful ways for individuals to improve their own economic circumstances, and in turn, their lives.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about optimism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “Entrepreneurship is a way of looking at the world and seeing not just obstacles, but opportunities; not just the world as it is, but the world as it could be.” Young people are inherently optimistic, creative, energetic, and passionate. Entrepreneurship can therefore be a vehicle for economic development, but equally important is that it is a powerful form of empowerment. Taking an idea from creation to realization allows young people to create and own their innovation, contribute positively to society, and be their own agents of change.

Empowerment is at the core of our engagement with young people around the world at the U.S. Department of State. Secretary Clinton has made youth issues a priority by creating the Office of Global Youth Issues and asking me to ensure that our youth focused programs are sustained, coordinated and have meaningful impact. We focus on elevating youth issues and youth voices, engaging directly with young people, and offering tools that bolster the efforts of young people who want to be change makers in their communities.

There is perhaps no more critical region in the world to address youth unemployment than the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). According to the World Economic Forum, the region needs to create 75 million jobs by 2020 just to keep employment close to current levels. The MENA region has one of the world’s youngest workforces, with more than half of the population under the age of 25. Recent polling has shown that fair pay and efforts to help bolster entrepreneurship in the region are high priorities among Arab youth.

This week, the U.S. government is partnering with the government of the United Arab Emirates to host the third annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Dubai. The GES is the leading U.S. government-supported forum for promoting economic growth through entrepreneurship. It connects entrepreneurs, investors, universities, and policymakers to catalyze partnerships and exchange ideas to encourage economic growth and strengthen ties. Recognizing that young entrepreneurs are a critical component of this audience, the State Department is playing a leading role in the Young Entrepreneur Forum at the GES.

The sessions at the Young Entrepreneur Forum are highlighting successful young entrepreneurs, emphasizing peer and mentor networks, and helping budding innovators develop their ideas and their capacity to realize them. The State Department is also launching Startup Youth, an initiative that, in coordination with the private sector, will provide programs and events to foster entrepreneurship around the world to facilitate opportunities for young entrepreneurs to take their ideas from creation to realization.

We are at a tipping point when it comes to economic engagement with young people, and we cannot let this opportunity pass us by. We must avoid letting this generation of young people become what U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned could be a “scarred generation.” It is critical to harness the potential of this moment with action from governments, the private sector, and especially young people themselves. The U.S., I believe, has a significant role to play in partnering with young people to make this happen.

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Topics: Youth

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Cam

    Why would anyone in the government, private sector, or anywhere consider trying to influence young people with anything except alcohol?

    December 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  2. Joseph McCarthy

    This appears to be an undercover attempt to get young people to accept and embrace Capitalism with all it's evils. Later on, they'll probably try to preach the virtues of American, British and French Imperialism over every other system.

    December 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • HK

      world is already facing capitalistic system it is like we are in the middle of the sea we can let ourselves to be drown in it instead we should also accept it and go a head a head with it.

      December 13, 2012 at 5:02 am | Reply
  3. HK

    Yes World should go towards the self sufficiency and youth should take a very important part in it....

    December 13, 2012 at 4:57 am | Reply
  4. Hate Wins

    Joseph McCarthy:

    The largest Communist country in the world, China and is becoming the most Capitalist country in the world. China should be called China, Inc. The current Communist leader ship is the board of directors and the head man the CEO they are in their heart of hearts businessmen. So China is not the anti Capitalism country some wish to believe.
    China also is becoming the largest polluter in the world and from reading it is not trying to correct its polluting.
    Please name a non Capitalism government that is really prospering today or in the past?
    Capitalism for all its claimed faults has over time proven to be the only system which allow anyone to prosper under it umbrella.
    Like you play on words by naming your self after Congressman Joseph McCarthy the author of McCarthyism a very dark time in our history. How may of the current readers do you think will get it?

    December 13, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
  5. deniz boro

    The world has went through a serias of economic crises when the senior employees with high earnings were sacked or forced to be retired; cheap labor even in white color was sought; coppying instead of R&D was favored.
    I was less than an assistant back in 1983 when I was 20; I could not find a job as a proven marketing manager in the 1990-2000 (besides my other folies). The new university graduates had even less chance.
    For the last 30 years at least, any position which did not contribute directly and visibly to money making (HERE & NOW) was considered to be an overhead and an extra burden. The youth or the new graduate crop of this time of 30 years are now no new crops anymore and are probably the parents of a primary school child.
    I was luckily the crop of the 80's and had a few years of glory when I saw that I can create a difference... Thus when I was about 30 I was more than pleased to educate and delegate.
    The MASTER and APPRENTICE relationship works both ways. Master keeps its fire hot and leads the way for the apprentice while the apprentice learns the way it should be.
    The GAP created by early and untimely retirement of the senior personnel and cheap employment strategies did eventually strike the human stock.
    It is true that investing in human is the costiest investment that has returns in the longest term.

    December 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  6. mangi1988

    Reblogged this on mangitshikomba.

    December 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  7. Wolk Riky

    This is a fact that there are 30% population of world is youth but we don't know how many % youth are serious about their future at that stage so, its very hard to convey a real analysis of enterperneurship to the youth

    December 19, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply

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