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In the introductory remarks, Mr Rashid S. Kaukab (Executive Director, CUTS International, Geneva) said that youth entrepreneurship in developing countries is one of the most positive aspects of digitalisation whereas it also is a formidable challenge. He highlighted the structure of the panellists: two are young entrepreneurs from the global south, and two are levelling the field internationally. These panellists, he said, enable us to draw a whole picture of challenges and opportunities for youth entrepreneurship in developing countries.
Ms Al Amjad Al Maawali (Founder, Teepee Oman) introduced the National Youth Program for Skills Development, the government-sponsored programme that prepares young Omani entrepreneurs for the fourth industrial revolution and benefits from them. This programme received approximately 11,000 applications, 51% of which were from women. Once accepted, the programme offered the participants e-learning classes about digital marketing, data science, and programming. While highlighting entrepreneurship as increasingly popular in Oman, she also talked about challenges. Among other things, the lack of data prevents entrepreneurs from researching and understanding the market size. Moreover, she elaborated that an innovative source of funding is necessary as crowdfunding is currently strictly regulated in Oman.
Mr Dulith Herath (Founder & Chairman, Kapruka), as an experienced e-commerce entrepreneur from Sri Lanka, introduced his successful start-up companies. For instance, Grasshoppers provides e-commerce delivery network by outsourcing the operation of regional hubs and the delivery to local entrepreneurs. This has solved the address issue as not many people have postal addresses in non-urban regions. Whilst mentioning challenges for entrepreneurs in developed nations, he emphasised the opportunities as well. He said that entrepreneurship can be a career path for many young people in the least developed countries (LDCs) and that the capitals needed to found startups are relatively modest.
Ms Victoria Tuomisto (Associate Expert, Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business, International Trade Centre) first mentioned the International Trade Centre (ITC)’s mandate to support micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries and LDCs. She said that the technology-related challenges for MSMEs are the lack of technical and digital skills of marketing, the lack of payment provider, and the lack of interoperability of systems. To overcome these obstacles, the ITC supports national context players, such as policymakers, authorities, business associations, and enterprises themselves by helping governments establish the e-commerce strategy, fostering the digital ecosystem, and providing MSMEs with coaching on negotiations and international sales strategy.
Ms Patricia Holmes (Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Australia to the WTO) said that it is a key priority for Australia to support developing countries to take advantage of the digital economy, in particular, developing countries in the Indo-Pacific are the focus of Australia. She emphasised that developed nations can partner with developing countries and set up regulatory bodies to harness the digital economy and remove barriers for LDCs to benefit from digitalisation. She further suggested that the WTO can support youth entrepreneurs from the global south by developing international rules and policy for e-commerce, updating the WTO rulebook, and set up youth entrepreneur delegates within the WTO. Continued support and efforts from the WTO can build trust and reliability on both developed and developing countries.