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Young entrepreneurs should be a G20 priority as drivers of global growth

Vivian Prokop, founding chair, G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance, and CEO, Canadian Youth Business Foundation • Grégoire Sentillhes, president, Les Journées de l’entrepreneur, France • Francisco Ruiz, president, Coparmex Young Entrepreneurs, Mexico

While large companies have been shedding jobs during the global downturn, many young entrepreneurs have taken the risk of launching their own businesses to create employment. Such enterprise needs to spread worldwide to aid recovery

From "The G20 Cannes Summit 2011: A New Way Forward," edited by John Kirton and Madeline Koch,
published by Newsdesk Media Group and the G20 Research Group, 2011
To download a low-resolution pdf, click here.

As the G20 leaders grapple with the continuing aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis, entrepreneurship has proven to be vital for building a stronger economy globally, rather than simply a topic for theoretical reflection. Issues of youth unemployment and entrepreneurship are destined to grow urgent on the global economic agenda. Even in good times, young people face relatively high unemployment and are the first and worst to be hit during any downturn. Those without jobs or prospects represent more than a loss of economic potential. They remain trapped in poor value-adding jobs, become easy targets for recruitment into criminal activity and the underground economy, and see no hope or reason to believe in society. Job creation strategies aimed at younger generations should be central to any economic recovery strategy.

Economic recovery will only happen thanks to a long-term vision and political will to place entrepreneurship at the heart of 21st-century capitalism.

Youth entrepreneurship must be a priority for world leaders because its importance in fostering growth is undeniable. In France alone, where this year’s G20 summit takes place, small and medium-sized enterprises have created 1.8 million jobs over the past 15 years; over the same period, the country’s 500 largest companies have cut 300,000 jobs. As average youth unemployment across the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is expected to hit 18 per cent in 2011 and will drop only slightly next year, enabling more young people to launch new businesses is essential.

Need for a worldwide plan

A successful strategy requires a sound appreciation of the issues that matter to young entrepreneurs, a coordinated plan to reinforce optimism, and initiatives that support entrepreneurial attitudes and activities. In order to enable large numbers of entrepreneurs to create jobs, innovate, invest, grow their businesses and contribute to stronger economies, a global entrepreneurial ecosystem is needed.

A major step in this process was the inaugural G20 Young Entrepreneur summit (G20 YES) in 2010, which started in Canada following the financial crisis. Despite the recession, young people were willing to take risks in creating employment for themselves and others. Demands for support from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) began to surge. The Canadian government moved to reinforce CYBF’s capacity, contributing $10 million (an amount that has since grown to $40 million). This enabled CYBF to fund a record number of start-ups (more than 600 in 2010) while maintaining an impressive 94 per cent success rate throughout the recession. In the same year, CYBF was inundated with requests for advice from overseas.

Since Canada was hosting the 2010 G20 summit, CYBF seized the opportunity to give entrepreneurship a higher profile in the global discussion about how to reinforce economic recovery. The first G20 YES was born, bringing more than 200 young entrepreneurs and supporters to Toronto in the days preceding the leaders’ meeting.

with little experience and few assets, coordinating support for young entrepreneurs across the public and private sectors, fostering a more entrepreneurial culture, shaping regulation and tax policy in ways that encourage business start-up and growth, and enabling young people to acquire the knowledge and skills to succeed as entrepreneurs. A resulting communiqué was presented to Canada’s minister of industry, Tony Clement, on behalf of the G20 leaders, and again a day later to top business leaders and finance ministers from across the G20 at the B20 summit.

The second important outcome of this inaugural G20 YES was the decision to create a continuing vehicle for addressing entrepreneurship issues within the context of the G20. The G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA) was formed to create a worldwide movement with the aim of highlighting to young people the vital role played by entrepreneurs in countries’ growth, innovation, job creation and competitiveness. The G20 YEA is a collective of leading entrepreneurially minded organizations representing the G20 countries. The G20 YEA Incheon Charter, formulated in November 2010 in Korea, declared a joint commitment to work within the official G20 process to raise awareness and drive policies that will help young people start and grow businesses.

The G20 YEA is organising the 2011 G20 YES in the south of France under the theme ‘Entrepreneur = growth = new jobs’. It is hosted by French G20 YEA member Les Journées de l’Entrepreneur and will take place from 31 October to 2 November. More than 400 emblematic entrepreneurs from the world’s leading 20 economies will gather in Nice, near Cannes, where the G20 leaders will congregate the day after the G20 YES ends. Together, the entrepreneurs will finalise proposals for positive solutions to the crisis based on the most effective policies and practices to ignite entrepreneurship, developed on an international level with the support of Ernst& Young and McKinsey and Company. The G20 YEA will then present the resulting recommendations to the G20 leaders.

Looking ahead to Mexico

Next year, the G20 leaders will meet in Mexico, where eight million people between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither in school nor working, and where 3.6 million households – 15 per cent of the total – are headed by people between 15 and 29, of whom only one in eight has a university degree. Mexico’s economy has seen a short-term recovery of the jobs lost in 2009, but it needs to create one million jobs a year just to absorb labour market entrants. Even this, however, will do nothing to reduce the number of people out of work today.

With Mexican G20 YEA member Comisión Nacional de Empresarios Jóvenes de COPARMEX at the helm, the 2012 G20 YES will build upon the previous summits by championing the growth of a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in developed and developing economies. It will mark the third time that the YEA will bring international recognition to the critical role that young entrepreneurs play in economic growth, and will engage world leaders in providing greater support for these business owners, who create jobs for themselves and others.

For members of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance and others, the G20 Young Entrepreneur summits are linked by one common, passionate belief – that entrepreneurship can become the cornerstone of global economic dynamism, competitiveness and prosperity.

For more information about the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, visit

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