12.3 Entrepreneurship is an Important Part of Increasing Youth Economic Opportunities in MENA, but it is not a Panacea

MENA experts who presented at the 2011 GYEOC agree that entrepreneurship is critical since there are not enough jobs in the region to absorb the youth demographic. New experiences identifying entrepreneurial aptitudes, providing training, access to finance, and mentorship hold promise though the region still has a long way to go. Significant attention still needs to be placed on changing mindsets so entrepreneurship is more widely accepted as a viable career path in a region so desperate for new jobs immediately. Stakeholders must be patient and allow sufficient time for businesses to develop. Yemen is one example of a government open to entrepreneurship, though they are just beginning steps necessary to foster new businesses. Experts agree that development time frames and outcome measurements need to account for the time it takes to grow a business, and for acceptance of entrepreneurship to grow.

12.3.1 Voices: MENA Experts Give Advice to the YEO Field

“At Citi, we find the most innovative and impactful
youth livelihood programs are those that incorporate
the youth voice in their design and link education and
training opportunities with the changing needs in the
local labor market and personal financial capability
work. For systemic change to occur in the field these
types of cross sector approaches are necessary to
promote livelihood creation.” -Brandee McHale, Chief
Operating Officer, Citi Foundation

“Do things differently. The status quo is not working.
At the World Bank, the e4e project has helped us to
think of things more creatively and innovatively.”

- Svava Bjarnason, Senior Education Specialist, IFC

“We all pay lip service to participatory approaches but
we need to delve deeply into participatory design.
Initial participation to engage. This means engaging
relevant actors including employers, youth, local civil
society and government from the very beginning.

It is time and resource intensive and does not yield
numbers right away–but it does yield effective design
for quality programs. As a part of this, as you are
conducting a labor market assessment, an ongoing
conversation with employers about their needs is very

-Awais Sufi, Vice President of Programs, International
Youth Foundation

“Listen to young people. Listen to alumni. We learn
more from alumni than from any other stakeholder.
We seek continuous feedback from employers.
Listen to them and employees to understand what
incentives would help them hire more people. There is
so much change in the region that we can’t be locked
into specific ideologies. Circumstances are changing
quickly. It is such an exciting time.”

-Jamie McAuliffe, President and CEO, Education for
Employment Foundation