The governments of eight Commonwealth island countries in the Pacific have resolved to implement policies that will enable more young people to become entrepreneurs and job creators rather than job seekers. Youth unemployment in the Pacific today stands at 23 percent with young people up to six times more likely to be jobless than the rest of the adult population.
“Youth entrepreneurship is a pragmatic strategy to halt spiralling youth unemployment,” declared the senior officials from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, in their joint statement.
The senior officials representing ministries of youth, women, labour and social development made the commitment at a Pacific Summit and Policy Dialogue on Youth Entrepreneurship. It was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the International Labour Organization and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, in Suva, Fiji, from April 5 -7.
In their joint statement, the officials agreed to improve the collection of age-disaggregated national data in order to develop more evidence-based youth development policies and programmes.
Young entrepreneurs representing several Pacific countries attended the three-day summit and worked collaboratively with the government officials to formulate national action plans to promote youth entrepreneurship.
Recognising the important role young entrepreneurship can play in addressing youth unemployment, the delegates agreed to reform regulations to make them more responsive to the aspirations of young people, improve access to finance and technology, and to take steps to enhance entrepreneurship training and education.
Policy proposals include:
Incentivising young entrepreneurs through tax concessions and simplified and flexible business registration procedures
Expanding financial services including loan and grant schemes, investment schemes and guarantee schemes
Improving internet and telephone connectivity with greater coverage in urban and rural areas
Promoting entrepreneurial thinking from an early age through education and training
Delivering employment programmes such as internships, mentoring services, career guidance and apprenticeships
Raising awareness and supporting young entrepreneurs, through trade expos and awards
The governments endorsed the Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship produced by the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which they said was valuable “in highlighting the existing barriers to youth entrepreneurship in our countries.”
Ms Ana Bing Fonua, Chief Executive Officer at Tonga’s Ministry of Training, Employment, Youth and Sports, said: “[The summit] will have a huge impact on the way governments think about the enabling environment for entrepreneurship. We will go back to our countries with a model that we can implement.”
Mr George Johnson Maeltoka, Director General at Vanuatu’s Ministry of Youth and Sports Development , urged the Commonwealth Secretariat and partner organisations to “continue assisting Pacific countries with policy advice and technical assistance to strengthen the environment for youth entrepreneurship in the region.”
Young entrepreneurs who attended the summit welcomed the opportunity to discuss their concerns directly with senior officials. “It was a rare and exciting chance to have an open dialogue with our governments and regional partners on the challenges we face as young people,” said Ms Lote Lima, a young entrepreneur from Samoa.
The meeting featured the Pacific launch of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s 2016 Global Youth Development Index and Report. Participating government officials, young people and senior representatives from the United Nations, European Union, Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat highlighted the importance of such resources in filling the data gap and mobilising support for more evidence-based policies.
“Young people in Pacific island countries are some of those most vulnerable to the greatest risks the world faces in the 21st century,” said Abhik Sen, Head of Youth Policy and Research at the Commonwealth Secretariat.
“The summit drove home the importance of innovation, entrepreneurship and smart policies in building the resilience of Pacific countries and their young people to meet these challenges head on.”
The Pacific summit came on the heels of regional youth entrepreneurship summits organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in Tanzania and South Africa for the Commonwealth’s 18 member governments in Africa. It is part of an ongoing strategy for improving youth entrepreneurship policy and strategies across the organisation’s more than 50 member countries.