Despite the increasing uptake in entrepreneurship, Barbadian and regional youth remain a vulnerable grouping because of their inexperience, limited training and lack of access to resource, according to Minister of Youth Stephen Lashley.
In an address at the opening of the Caribbean Youth Entrepreneurship Summit at the Courtyard by Marriott on Thursday, Lashley observed that small and micro enterprises were the key drivers of economic growth.
But he noted that while youth-owned businesses and small businesses “in our several islands” created modest economic impact, the numbers suggested that these business could contribute significantly to the diversification of regional economies and had good potential for growth.
He said it was therefore the responsibility of leaders to help young entrepreneurs to survive by providing them with the tools, resources and guidance to be “substantial” economic contributors.
“Increasingly, young people across our region are occupying more of the economic space and engaging in entrepreneurial activities as they opt to start their own enterprises,” said Lashley.
“I am aware that in spite of the increasing uptake in entrepreneurship, youth remain a vulnerable grouping because of their inexperience, limited training and lack of access to resource. Priority must therefore be given to developing policies, programmes and support mechanisms that will nurture youth entrepreneurship and cater to the needs of young people as they establish and grow new youth-led enterprises,” he added.
Pointing out that entrepreneurship was an effective developmental tool, Lashley said for it to be most impactful and sustainable “we must take a regional approach” to advancing and showcasing its legitimacy, suggesting that the Summit was “a great start”.
He said cohesive policy development, creating economic opportunity and fostering regional connectivity were the key elements he believed would propel the development of a sustainable entrepreneurship climate in the region.
“As Caribbean people we share many similarities but we also have many wonderful differences. As we attempt to create synergies on the road to advancing regionalism through entrepreneurship, we must be mindful of these factors and seek specifically to draw on our collective wisdom and experiences to craft integrated but regional‐specific approaches to entrepreneurial development that underscore our oneness whilst taking into consideration our unique features, characteristics and needs,” he added, acknowledging that working together would not be easy.
“We all have a pivotal role to play in supporting entrepreneurship and advancing regionalism. Government, the private sector, business support organizations, funding agencies, academia, communities and entrepreneurs must work together to help meet our development goals and create more competitive, vibrant and dynamic Caribbean economies.
“It is my fervent wish that regional governments offer more tangible support to stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of any strategies that come out of this summit and the work of the various regional networks,” he added.