Our Perspective


Youth Enterprise: Empower & Sustain

by

The island nation proudly renowned as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, boasts of its legendary civilization, unique culture, natural splendor and aspiring hospitality. Despite all this, Sri Lanka has struggled to establish itself as a noticeable power in the economic realm.

Since the end of terrorism in mid-2009, Sri Lanka experienced a rapid growth. During this time, statistics suggested a shift from low income status to middle income. In regard to this, it is important to question if we are heading for the middle income trap. On one hand, Sri Lanka will find it increasingly difficult to compete against the cheap labour of the low income countries and on the other hand, it is almost impossible to compete with high tech, innovation driven high productive economies. According to the Department of Census and Statistics 36.4% of the youth between the ages of 20 to 24 are likely to be unemployed. In the current context, if we do not mobilize the enterprising skills of the youth of our nation, Sri Lanka will be damned into the middle income trap.

The solution to this is simple. We have to ensure that we have an enterprising young generation, who are not afraid to take risks, who are open for innovation, who can identify opportunities, who wish to impact the society and who are capable of leading others towards success. How can we instill all these in an individual? It will not be easy by any means, however there are two main aspects which we need to look into. We need to empower the youth and ensure that they sustain the momentum.

Empower

It is impossible to teach the youth to be entrepreneurial. Yet, we could teach the youth to be open minded. If they are open minded, then they are empowered. I am certain that we all are thinking, “Are we not open minded?” All your life if you dreamed of becoming a doctor, engineer, lawyer or teacher, can you say you are open-minded? Our youth has to be taught to look beyond the existing frame of reference. Being a doctor, engineer, lawyer or teacher is all good, but those are not the only options.

Sri Lankans are a talented bunch, but we do not put the effort to go beyond and to make things count. According to the Sri Lanka National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2014 on Youth and Development, regional disparities means that some youth have better job opportunities than others. Underemployment and underemployment are traditionally more widely prevalent in most provinces other than the Central and Western provinces. In the North, nearly 20% of youth remain unemployed.

Sustain

Sustain is to keep up the enterprising spirits. Empowering is good but, if the youth cannot sustain the enterprising spirits to continue to achieve the greater goals we are at a struggle. In the current Sri Lankan context we see a number of youth initiatives, yet seems to have faded with time. The NHDR states that a major gap in helping youth obtain employment opportunities is the gap in career guidance facilities. 41% were unaware of such facilities available in their locality. Thus we can see a loss in momentum and a drop in commitment.

Why enterprise?

"The Pursuit of Opportunity beyond Resources Controlled"

Prof. Howard Stevenson

To enterprise is not about starting your own business. Being an entrepreneur has a much deeper meaning. It is about pursuing opportunities which might be beyond the resources we control. It can be in any field of expertise. An engineer could come up with a mechanism to build low cost self-cleaning cloth material or a doctor could discover medication for cancer or a lawyer could peruse to speak up for the innocent. An entrepreneur may create a whole new dimension in the social context, or an entrepreneur could alter and sophisticate an existing dimension and take it to the next level. By pursuing these opportunities we could change the world, slowly yet gradually. We should enterprise. Entrepreneurship is not about the money, it is about the impact and the self-satisfaction.

The youth of our beautiful nation have already become the drivers of our nation. At each step we need to introduce innovative and enterprising initiatives to go forward. We are now a middle income country and to take the next leap forward we need to enterprise. Sri Lankans need to be instilled with the courage to stand on their own feet and rise up to the next level. It is essential that our youth begin to enterprise. It is time to lay the ground for an enterprising social norm.

"Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Peter Drucker

Youth Blog post Asia & the Pacific Sri Lanka

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Sri Lanka 
Go to UNDP Global