Entrepreneur, Managing Director, GeoTechVision
Recently, I was a participant in the Infodev/World Bank Accelerate Caribbean Study Tour in Florida and Toronto. The Accelerate Caribbean programme is part of infoDev’s Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC). It aims to increase capacity and strengthen performance of the Caribbean business enablers via a combination of action learning, coaching and mentoring as well as to facilitate the sharing of knowledge on various models of business incubation and networking. The study tour was one of the key activities of the programme that will provided participants the opportunity to become familiar with business best practices as well as facilitated networking and peer-to-peer learning.
For me, the study tour highlighted one common element, “It takes an ecosystem to raise an entrepreneur.” I have always maintained that true success cannot be achieved in isolation, thus we need to collaborate to innovate. A familiar saying is “it takes a village to raise a child” and similarly “it takes an ecosystem to raise an entrepreneur.” So what is an entrepreneurial ecosystem? An entrepreneurial ecosystem describes the conditions that brings stakeholders together to foster economic prosperity and wealth creation. There are several major elements which are considered important to the generation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. These elements include:
- Government policy
- The regulatory framework and infrastructure
- Access to funding and finance
- Navigating the prevailing societal and business culture
- Involvement of mentors, coaches, advisors and support systems
- Continuous education and training
- Availability of human capital and workforce
- Access to markets – local and global
The need for this kind of multifaceted support for entrepreneurial activity cannot be overemphasized.
The special report, “Creating the Environment for Entrepreneurial Success” done by the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) in 2014, highlights the crucial environmental dimension of entrepreneurship ecosystems.
It shows that an environment for entrepreneurial success requires more than the core ingredients of technology, infrastructure, and investment. It requires institutions that provide incentives and opportunities for entrepreneurs to create and take risks. These institutions evolve through dialogue, experimentation, and a combination of grassroots and high-level reform initiatives. Improving the conditions for entrepreneurship and levelling the playing field goes beyond the effort to help promising entrepreneurs.
It expands the pool of potential entrepreneurs, builds incentives for entrepreneurship, eases the costs of doing business, and generates healthy competition. Policy and regulatory reforms should be integrated with comprehensive services to educate, finance, advise, and encourage entrepreneurs.
So how can we build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Guyana? Entrepreneurship drives economic change and innovation. Entrepreneurs are crucial to building prosperous societies that deliver opportunity to all citizens. Recognising that entrepreneurship is vital to a competitive knowledge based economy should compel policy-makers, the business community, higher learning educational institutions and civil society to work cooperatively in identifying and fostering the conditions which drive people to start new businesses. There is a real need for a multipronged approach central to which must be partnerships and cooperation between key stakeholders.
Additionally there is a need to build that culture of entrepreneurship and this must begin with our youths. Running their own business must be presented to them as a real career path.
Traditional classrooms and curriculum are not designed for future entrepreneurs, rather the emphasis is on training students to be employees and rule-followers – not preparing them to be self-driven leaders or to launch their own ventures. Hence, youths are often encouraged to ‘get a good education so they can get a good job.’ Exposure to relevant, intentionally-designed curricula is therefore vital for the teaching and learning of innovative entrepreneurial skills.
Creating widespread awareness of the importance of developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem is therefore a critical culture-change imperative. Strong leadership and good governance is crucial to success. Collaboration is also vital towards creating this entrepreneurial Culture. While there is not a single prescription and each country or community must find its own unique localized way to doing this, all stakeholders may benefit from the following approach:
- Ensure that there are the necessary policies and regulatory framework that reduce the barriers to business startup
- Engage the entrepreneurs and seek their inputs in developing more effective policies – encourage dynamism, diversity and entrepreneurial activity that is appropriate to the local conditions.
- Entrepreneurs themselves must take a leading role in building ecosystems, by creating entrepreneurial communities and providing input into policy.
- Map the Ecosystem – really understand who the participants are so that better engagement strategies may be developed.
- Set the vision, identify low hanging fruits and act fast
- Engage the stakeholders fully – The various players should cooperate and network to make the most of their respective strengths.
- Foster a culture that supports entrepreneurial aspirations and celebrates success stories
- Prepare to capitalize on crisis – recognize that crisis creates opportunities so be ready to Identify the dysfunctionalities and employ collaborative problem solving
A best practice coming from the entrepreneurial ecosystems that I have seen and researched is that there is the need to engage the youth, improve policy and administration, foster networking and education, and provide financing for entrepreneurs. For any ecosystem to function properly, the component parts must play their proper roles and fit together. Knowledge, resources, incentives, guidelines, and opportunities must each be developed to serve and stimulate entrepreneurship in Guyana.
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