Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Startup Bangladesh Limited jointly launched a report titled “The State of the Ecosystem for Youth Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh” at a virtual event on 23 November.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP and State Minister, ICT Division, attended the event as the Chief Guest, alongside special guests Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, Muhammad Nassis Sulaiman, Regional Manager, Regional Hub of Dhaka Islamic Development Bank Group, Shekar Rajashekaran, Citi Chief Officer & Managing Director Bangladesh, Sub-Cluster Head Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, and Hasan A. Arif, Head of Portfolio Investment, Startup Bangladesh Limited.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, in his remarks, said, “It is important to encourage students, teachers as well as parents to take on an entrepreneurial mindset. I want to urge UNDP to plan and launch a Parents Portal that creates awareness on cybersecurity, IT and entrepreneurship among parents.”
“To foster a culture of entrepreneurship, we have made the youth entrepreneurship agenda one of the top priorities in our policies and their implementation. The government’s Digital Bangladesh vision has been preparing, through ICT based learning, the future generations of Bangladeshis for the 4th Industrial Revolution. The government is committed to facilitating the growth of business, trade and investment to reach the goal of becoming a developed economy by 2041,” Palak added.
He also announced the Prime Minister’s approval of the long-awaited Digital Connectivity project, which “aims to accelerate skills development and growth of aspiring entrepreneurs and digital service providers.”
Sudipto Mukerjee acknowledged the need for development partners to invest in good data and urged all stakeholders to rethink education in a way that promotes an entrepreneurial mindset among youth. He remarked, “If you can get entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions for Bangladesh, what works for 170 million people will probably work for five billion people across the world.”
Muhammad Nassis Sulaiman said, “Since 1974 when Bangladesh became the member of Islamic Development Bank Group, about 21 billion US Dollars’ worth of interventions have been implemented in Bangladesh. From the advent of COVID-19, Islamic Development Bank Group has supported various sectors in Bangladesh, including SMEs, that have been effective towards implementation phases in helping the young entrepreneurs in the country that are particularly affected by the COVID-19 situation.” Appreciating Bangladesh Government, he hopes that the report will be a valuable resource for the ecosystem to launch more evidence-based programmatic interventions as well; given the priority alignment towards overall socio-economic development of the country, the report will be one of the critical preludes when the IsDB is preparing a new country strategy for Bangladesh moving forward.
Shekar Rajashekaran highlighted the intersection between youth entrepreneurship and national priorities and appreciated the trends that indicate a positive change in attitudes and culture of the Bangladeshi population towards entrepreneurship. He noted, “We need compatible growth in the future which needs to bring prosperity, eliminate poverty and continue the extraordinary social development that has occurred which has resulted in Bangladesh obtaining leading indicators in this part of the world.”
This first-of-its-kind study conducted and consolidated by Lightcastle Partners delves into the challenges and opportunities within the six central domains of the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem in Bangladesh and provides recommendations to develop the ecosystem over the coming years.
To amplify the impacts of steady economic growth Bangladesh has witnessed over the past decade, by achieving targets related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030, and addressing the challenges related to the inclusivity and sustainability of the economic growth, it is necessary to support the human development and economic empowerment of the large youth population and address the significant challenges related to youth unemployment. Entrepreneurship can enable the youth to create opportunities for themselves and encourage others to do so as well.
Ellie Horrocks, Policy Specialist, Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship, Regional Youth Team, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub welcomed the audience which was followed by the keynote presentation on the report, by Bijon Islam, CEO, LightCastle Partners.
The session was moderated by Mahmudul Hasan, Youth Coordinator, UNDP Bangladesh.