Entrepreneurship is an important pillar driving the economy. While many people view it through the lens of business – as a profit-making endeavor – we have seen how today’s rising entrepreneurs are driving innovative ideas to break away from this mold. They are combining the purpose of business to drive economic growth while making significant contributions to benefit their local community.
Inspiring entrepreneurship among today’s youth is becoming increasingly important, and many countries have made it a vital part of their growth agenda. On the global stage, promoting youth entrepreneurship takes equal importance in terms of policy development. For example, the European Union Youth Strategy for 2010-2018 includes entrepreneurship as a key focus area.
In Vietnam, the government passed the Law on Support for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME Law). Under this law, which took effect in January 2018, the government provides special support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, and innovative ventures so that they have equal access to important resources such as funding, land, and investments. The objective is to cultivate a good ecosystem by including policies that encourage entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship in Vietnam certainly has significant potential given its sizeable young and educated workforce with a high literacy rate. Moreover, the young population continues to be increasingly tech savvy and are very much open to trying new and emerging technologies. The startup community in Vietnam continues to grow – from only 400 in 2012 to nearly 3,000 in 2017.
Vietnam has an increasingly positive view of and competence in using technology. In research commissioned by FedEx entitled “Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, Vietnam SMEs expressed optimism about adopting technologies such as mobile payments, big data, advanced analytics, and software automation to further drive operational efficiencies and business growth.
Encouraging youth entrepreneurship certainly helps address the challenge of youth unemployment. In the 2016 EY Global Job Creation Survey, 59% of entrepreneurs surveyed said that they plan to increase their workforce, which will generate job opportunities for young people.
Beyond benefitting the economy and society, entrepreneurship – and the journey towards becoming an entrepreneur – brings out the best among youth. Entrepreneurship imparts many valuable skills: it teaches young people how to plan better and recognize risks, as well as how to become financially responsible. It allows them to understand concepts such as supply and demand. In learning how to build a business, young people are able to gain and practice organizational, management, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Cultivating a spirit of entrepreneurship is at the heart of our continued support of the FedEx Express/Junior Achievement International Trade Challenge (ITC). An annual competition that aims to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit and business skills of students, the ITC features students working on creating international market entry strategies with a product and target market that changes every year. Launched by FedEx and Junior Achievement in 2007, the ITC has since had more than 20,000 young entrepreneurs participating in the competition in the Asia Pacific region.
In Vietnam, the ITC has garnered interest from students eager to share their own business ideas. Since first joining the competition in 2010, Vietnam has sent 361 students from 31 schools to participate in the ITC. This year, Duong Ha Anh, an eleventh-grade student from the Hanoi Amsterdam High School, together with her partner, Korean student Seungwon Lee, won the regional championship in Singapore. The winning team presented I-Balance, a wearable device for elderly French persons that will helps them prevent falls by monitoring their body balance and alerting them when they are at risk.
Initiatives like the ITC continue to develop students’ knowledge, provides training and drives their entrepreneurial creativity. Giving them a venue to experiment with business ideas and develop a plan realize these ideas, not only gives inspiration but enables them to explore new ideas and careers.
Cultivating the spirit of entrepreneurship among today’s youth present a wealth of benefits not only for the young generation, but also for the local communities. Through entrepreneurship, young people are given the opportunity to explore new avenues of career development and exercise their creativity and ingenuity; beyond individual growth, their potential business can deliver positive changes including the creation of jobs and other income-generating opportunities in their community.
 OECD (2017), “The way forward: Helping youth entrepreneurs reach their potential”, in Unlocking the Potential of Youth Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries: from Subsistence to Performance, OEED Publishing, Paris.