Bringing sustainable entrepreneurship to the next level

27 juin 2022

UNCTAD continues its long-standing commitment to help developing countries harness the power of entrepreneurship as a tool for sustainable and inclusive development.

© JonoErasmus

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which employ 60% to 70% of workers worldwide and produce 50% of global GDP, were hit hard by COVID-19.

They were 2.5 times more likely to go under than larger businesses during the first months of the crisis. And small businesses are less prepared for the impacts of climate change, which could trigger a pandemic-sized shock every decade.

To underscore the urgent need to boost support for small businesses around the globe, UNCTAD is organizing  for international MSME Day 2022 a joint UN event in New York in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN and the International Council for Small Business.

The event on 27 June will highlight how governments and international organizations can get MSMEs the support they need to build back stronger from the pandemic and boost their resilience to the climate emergency and other crises.

New online tool for entrepreneurs

To mark the day, UNCTAD is also launching the “Empretec corner” – an internal online management tool to enhance collaboration and information sharing among its Empretec entrepreneurship programme.

The tool will strengthen the support UNCTAD provides to small business owners through Empretec’s network of global entrepreneurship centres in 41 countries.

“Entrepreneurship is a strong driver of socioeconomic development, especially when it concerns micro, small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Arlette Verploegh, chief of entrepreneurship development at UNCTAD.

She added: “We at UNCTAD have a long-standing commitment to supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems that are truly inclusive, including vulnerable groups such as women and the youth, promote innovation and new technologies and help communities build a better future.”

Supporting post-COVID-19 MSME resurgence

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global lockdowns that severely affected businesses, UNCTAD quickly reoriented its work priorities on entrepreneurship.

UNCTAD now leads the global initiative towards post-COVID-19 resurgence of the MSMEs sector, part of the UN framework for the immediate response to COVID-19.

This initiative develops and implements capacity-building tools for governments and MSMEs in developing countries and economies in transition to strengthen their resilience while mitigating the economic and social impact of the crisis.

The initiative also facilitates MSMEs’ contribution to the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“During these difficult times, the world needs practical solutions and recommendations that are easily and immediately implementable,” Ms. Verploegh said.

She underscored the critical need for upgrading entrepreneurs’ skills, promoting entrepreneurial behaviour and supporting schemes that lead to sustainable medium to long-term entrepreneurship strategies.

An entrepreneurship policy framework

In addition to training entrepreneurs, UNCTAD provides advice to governments based on the six pillars of its Entrepreneurship Policy Framework: entrepreneurship strategy, regulatory environment, education, technology exchange and innovation, access to finance, and awareness and networking.

The organization looks at existing entrepreneurship-related strategies in a country, identifies gaps and inconsistencies and presents to governments recommendations on priority areas.

“We believe that by doing so, the current needs of entrepreneurs can be more quickly addressed and the risk of overlapping inconsistencies between many strategies that touch upon entrepreneurship is reduced,” Ms. Verploegh said.

UNCTAD also advises governments to design strategies that cover the needs of all entrepreneurs, as a “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t effective.

“Here, we think of the needs of entrepreneurs by necessity, those by opportunity and startups, to name a few,” Ms. Verploegh added.

She said UNCTAD believes governments can delegate 80% of strategy implementation to entrepreneurship promotion agencies.

These agencies are more closely connected to the private sector, hence they’re in a good position to share up-to-date information on entrepreneurship, conduct capacity-building activities and offer business facilitation tools.

Delegation of implementation work allows governments to focus on policymaking and designing coherent strategies.

UNCTAD is currently working with the governments of Ecuador, Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda on national entrepreneurship strategies.

Empretec programme upgraded

UNCTAD also upgraded the Empretec programme and its training workshops to help promising entrepreneurs put their ideas into action and fledging businesses to grow.

Since the programme’s creation 34 years ago, 500,000 entrepreneurs have been trained in over 40 countries. Over the last two years, over 700 trainers and entrepreneurs from 28 countries have benefited from Empretec activities.

The participants were trained on areas such as running a farming business, ensuring business sustainability and designing entrepreneurial strategies. A version of the training has been developed for people with low literacy skills.

UNCTAD’s work on research and capacity-building for entrepreneurs is complemented by a set of business facilitation tools for government agencies in developing countries.  

The tools, for example, make it easier for entrepreneurs to register their businesses online – this was convenient during COVID-19 lockdowns, when offices were closed and work was moved online.

UNCTAD is designing a 2.0 version of its Entrepreneurship Policy Framework studies and its Empretec entrepreneurship global network, to be unveiled in the second half of 2022.

The organization is building upon UN General Assembly resolutions that recognize UNCTAD’s programmes as drivers of sustainable development of entrepreneurship since 2012.