Operating business is not easy unless you have necessary knowledge, skills, expertise and above all self-confidence
Outgoing Prime Minister KP Oli once said that the youth need not worry about jobs. “Deposit certificate, get money and start business,” he said. It sounded like a joke. This remark also shows how our government takes youth employment lightly.
Recently, I met a group of unqualified Maoist combatants who said they would be receiving Rs 200,000 each from the government. They want to use this money in productive sector but they have no clue as to how to start an enterprise. Operating business is not easy unless you have necessary knowledge, skills, expertise and, above all, self-confidence.
So far, no government has come up with a comprehensive strategy to promote youth entrepreneurs. When Baburam Bhattarai was finance minister in 2009, he had established a ‘Youth Entrepreneur Self-employment Fund’ and set up a powerful office to run it. But successive governments have ignored it. An estimated 24,000 youths have received some fund from this program so far. But this is way too little given that four million youths enter employment market each year. This huge youth force is compelled to leave the country to toil abroad in order to earn their livelihood and support their families back home.
Given this, Naya Shakti has made it a priority to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to absorb at least ten million youths into productive sectors as entrepreneurs.
Youths can become their own masters by creating business enterprises in diverse sectors like agriculture, livestock, tourism, e-commerce, water harvesting, technology and research and development. They can also engage in different agriculture-related enterprises such as producing and marketing high value and organic products and developing niche agro-businesses of comparative advantages.
Self-confidence is the key to youth involvement in self-made enterprises. Some may have both the capital and the skill, but no clue how to start an enterprise. Others may have skill but no capital. Yet others may have neither of the two. In this situation, self-confidence cannot be developed until the youth know where the opportunities are, how to plan for sustainable growth of business, where to find capital, and where to find quality inputs and markets. Imparting knowledge to youth on these priority areas will boost their confidence.
Naya Shakti’s youth entrepreneur program aims to address these shortcomings by providing the youth with knowledge, expertise, skills and guidance in three key areas: confidence building, guiding them in operation and management of productive and production enhancing enterprises and developing smart business cooperatives to support youth enterprises, including value additions and quality assurance.
Naya Shakti’s strategy to promote youth entrepreneurship includes pooling knowledge and skills from research and development organizations and working with various production enhancement-related agencies for the benefit of youth enterprises. It aims to make best use of modern technology as well.
It has identified five key areas of management as critical to promote youth entrepreneurs: financial support and credit, inputs and machineries, processing and value addition, domestic and international markets, and smart business cooperatives.
Easy access to finance is essential for the youth. The majority of them have no idea where and how to access credit. Our program facilitates credit availability. It also connects youth entrepreneurs to input supply agents and facilitates the process of obtaining required inputs to enhance the productivity of enterprise.
Latest technology and innovative ideas can add value to home-grown products. It is crucial to add value to product for premium pricing, along with quality assurance in supply chain. Quality assurance is a must in making products competitive nationally and internationally. Adding value through processing, packaging, branding with property right and linking them to both domestic and export markets will be our key strategy. We will also look for niche product markets which have comparative advantages globally such as of organic agro products, herbal and medicinal plants, home stay and adventure tourism.
Smart cooperatives will make provisions to provide both financial assistance and inputs to the entrepreneurs. They also help entrepreneurs gain easy access to both domestic and international markets in order to market their products.
Naya Shakti envisions one youth entrepreneur development center in each of the seven provinces, which will be linked to a center supporting ‘knowledge enhancement youth training’ in each district. These centers will impart practical knowledge and skills to aspiring youth entrepreneurs.
We also plan to develop one central smart business cooperative in each province, with a branch office in each district. These cooperatives will help farmer-producer groups in each village to enhance productivity and gain market access.
The author is the Chief of Labor, Cooperative and Self-employment Department, Naya Shakti Nepal. He hold a PhD in agricultural economics from Cornell University