Zara Khan, the Beyond Profit DC representative, reports from the 2009 Global Youth Enterprise Conference.
According to ILO estimates, in 2020 1 billion more youth will enter the work force, yet only 300 million jobs will be created. The role of microfinance in bridging this gap was a main theme at this year’s Global Youth Enterprise Conference.
To turn this “deficit into a dividend,” Alan Fleischmann, Managing Director of ImagineNations Group urges us to invest in our youth to promote entrepreneurial activity. He calls for a demand-driven approach, for investors and donors to listen to demand for capital from youth. With only 0.25% of major commercial banks and MFIs dedicating financial services to youth, there is no doubt that youth are marginalized.
Many cite youth as “too risky,” despite evidence that youth-led microfinance portfolios may have equal, if not higher, repayment rates than adult-led enterprises. Others cannot see beyond the threat of predatory lending when introducing financial services targeted to youth. The arguments for denying youth access to financial capital are reminiscent of arguments denying the poor access to microcredit. Are we again imposing stereotypes upon individuals?
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup offered an alternative perspective to the issue of 700 million jobless youth in 2020. He does not see youth financial services as the main factor in promoting entrepreneurship. “Money is easy,” he said, “individuals are an energy unit which we have to learn to harness.” Clifton’s sees entrepreneurship to be the result of the perfect mix of optimism and determination. It’s not just optimism – “optimism on it’s own can be annoying.” When you overlay it with determination, then you have something.