Entrepreneurship is the route to peace

Entrepreneurship is the route to peace

One only needs to look at the tensions pulsating through the world today to know that at its core lie the twin evils of lack of dignity and opportunity for those who live in poorer parts of the world.

People without dignity or opportunity or hope have nothing to lose, and when that state is reached, lashing out at others deemed more powerful and more successful is a given.

And while one could argue about the many facets of dignity, we cannot deny that being financially able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones is at its heart.

We live at a time when the power of youth is unprecedented. This is the biggest youth population in the history of the world. Yet according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), youth unemployment is also at an all time high - with 73 million of 15-24 year-olds jobless worldwide.

The feeling of lack and hopelessness these young people face could potentially be a ticking time bomb. They are at the epicentre of social unrest, as we have seen play out in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Arab Spring.

It is a big concern back home, and one that isn’t going to go away soon unless Malaysia takes a hard look at results-driven ways to handle this issue.

60% of unemployed in Malaysia are youth

In June, the World Bank expressed concern that there is a high ratio of jobless youth to overall employment in Malaysia - it is at a high of 3.3 and 60% of unemployed in the country are aged 15-24.

“Of special concern is the concentration of the unemployed among 20-24 year-olds, as this cohort of workers is relatively well-educated,” it said in the Malaysia Economic Monitor.

In 2012, the Ministry of Higher Education admitted that a quarter of all graduates had not secured employment at graduation, and the World Bank shows that nearly one in five degree holders under the age of 25 were unemployed that year.

Then the World Bank posed a very salient question: “Youth unemployment in Malaysia presents a puzzle: if the economy requires increasing numbers of talented workers, why does a relatively large share of better-educated youth have trouble finding a job?”

Job creators, not job seekers

Swaziland on the move

To me, the answer is simple but it does take admitting 3 key facts - that it is not the government’s responsibility to employ the unemployed, that there can never be enough jobs created by government to meet the pace of 180,000 new graduates a year, and that entrepreneurship is the most productive and efficient solution for both country and individual.

That being the case, the only logical solution is that our education system needs to produce ‘job creators’ not job seekers. Our education system at the tertiary level must produce entrepreneurial graduates.

For us that has been the emphasis since we started in 1991. We made creative thinking an integral part of the curriculum. We had to get young people to be curious again, to look at creative solutions, to want to be entrepreneurs.

Swaziland on the move

In Africa, we piloted the Limkokwing Entrepreneurship Accelerator Platform (LEAP) in our first campus in Botswana. It was the solution to a problem we faced - that there simply weren’t enough businesses to provide internship opportunities for our final-year students.

Students who are unable to be placed for internships join LEAP where they build a team to set up a real-life business and develop a project. They are mentored by industry professionals to hone and fine tune their business ideas and products; and many of them have gone on to set up the business upon graduation.

The offshoot of this is that young people end up engineering new industries, opening new markets and creating local brands.

While the situation may not seem as dire in Malaysia as it is in Africa, the global wave of unemployment is a picture that is hard to ignore.

Ironically, wave after wave of global surveys and reports tell governments that tertiary curriculums are out of touch with market needs - yet much of university education remains mired in an employment-driven model.

Entrepreneurship is touted as a magic pill but most education systems are populated by employee-minded people. When most education systems are still defined by conformity, how do we breed innovative and creative thinkers who are the kind of people who start businesses?

Government should not compete with entrepreneurs

There is another worrying trend that existing entrepreneurs face. When government agencies go into business, their massive resources - human and financial - dwarf that of entrepreneurs.

The government’s job is to administer, introduce and implement laws that support entrepreneurs particularly in competition with big companies.

When the government goes into business, it is competing with the very SMEs that it is supposed to give a helping hand to.

When 99% of businesses in the country are SMEs how can they expect to compete with a government agency flush with funds?

When managing funds and risk-taking is a part of every entrepreneur’s daily life, how can they compete with a government agency who does not need to worry about bottom lines or producing tangible results?

When governments compete with entrepreneurs, they dampen market competition. It depresses opportunity, and it drags down incomes, suppresses growth and innovation.

If this becomes widespread, how will our economy cope? When SMEs contribute 40% to the GDP and employ almost 60% of the people, imagine the impact that will have on our economy if they are constantly against the wall of government-run businesses.

It may unleash repercussions with long lasting effects for the future of this nation.

tansri photo

About Tan Sri Lim


Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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