Entrepreneurs: drivers of growth and employment
Entrepreneurship has always been a human trait. While for our ancestors it was necessary as a means for survival and coping with the forces of nature, it is now often linked to the creation of new products and services that reshape people’s lives through economic and technological innovation.
It is those innovations, and the entrepreneurial businesses built around them, that continue to drive the creation of new employment opportunities worldwide. And although failure is often a part of entrepreneurship, through the continuing optimism, determination and innovation of individuals, it is what drives societies forward.
Take Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the nineteenth-century British engineer who so significantly shaped public transport as we know it. Be it in the United Kingdom, India or Mexico, his ideas continue to be responsible for millions of jobs and economic prosperity across the world today. Or look at Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and the late Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. One can only speculate what the global IT and services sectors would have looked like without their vision and determination.
Yet one must not forget that entrepreneurs are found in all layers of society and in all nations across the globe: in the favelas of Brazil, in Indian villages and in garages in Finland. As Brad Feld points out on page 13, 'start-ups can flourish anywhere and ... every city needs a start-up community.' In fact, they do, and while they may not achieve the same success and fame as the examples mentioned above, these unknown entrepreneurs are still catalysts of employment creation across the world. They may be a hotel and tourist destination owner in Laos (see page 30), an IT engineer in Bangladesh (page 29), or a mango producer in Senegal (page 35). And while it may not be their everyday focus, they share the fact that they have all taken steps to link themselves to global value chains.
Through a stronger focus on capacity building and institutional support to respond to market needs, and better access to finance for SMEs, it is possible to increase export and income opportunities for all entrepreneurs, including women, who represent a largely untapped source for entrepreneurship and employment. Economies across the world stand to gain billions of dollars in increased productivity and economic activity if more is done to include women in the workforce.
It is important to stress that ‘help’ is not what the entrepreneurs and businesses we work with require. What they seek instead is assistance to ensure that their ideas and products are correctly aligned to market needs and trends, while at the same time meeting the standards and quality required to compete effectively. This is crucial to allowing them to build up viable businesses that are sustainable and capable of contributing to the overall welfare of their communities. This is at the heart of ITC’s mission.
Although our work is made easier through the support of our donors and partners, it would be impossible without the determination of the individuals – and their businesses – that we meet and work with on the ground. It is the determination of these entrepreneurs that touches billions of lives every day and creates the necessary employment opportunities needed for economic growth.