The Least Developed Countries Report 2018

Entrepreneurship for structural transformation: Beyond business as usual

Nowhere else in the world is radical economic transformation more urgent than in the least developed countries, which have the challenge of accumulating productive capacities at an unprecedented speed, in the face of the rapid reorientation of global production and digital transformation, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

At the centre of radical economic change is transformational entrepreneurship. The Least Developed Countries Report 2018: Entrepreneurship for Structural Transformation – Beyond Business as Usual demonstrates how transformational entrepreneurship generates many of the social and economic innovations that underpin sustainable development. Transformational entrepreneurs create new products and business models; they offer dignified employment; their success leads to broader improvements in the quality of life and even bolsters fiscal sustainability. Dynamic entrepreneurs also make a greater contribution to wealth accumulation and distribution.

In the least developed countries, however, underdevelopment and unfavourable forms of participation in global trade constrain the emergence of the dynamic, opportunity-seeking entrepreneurs needed for structural transformation. The dearth of dynamic local entrepreneurship endangers structural transformation and ultimately weakens national ownership and the potential impact of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals in the least developed countries.

The weakness of dynamic entrepreneurship has important implications in the least developed countries, where entrepreneurship policy is often mobilized as an alternative to unemployment and a remedy for structural inequalities. This type of policy is often an imperfect way of fostering high-impact and dynamic entrepreneurship, which requires a distinct and strategic approach and deliberate long-term nurturing that entail coordinated and coherent action and smart policies across a range of relevant policy areas.

The Least Developed Countries Report 2018 presents a compelling case for a structural transformation-centred approach to entrepreneurship policy in the least developed countries. The report underscores entrepreneurship policy based on a fundamental recognition of disparities in the contribution of different types of entrepreneurship to structural transformation and wealth creation. It establishes a more active and proactive stance for the State in steering the emergence of dynamic and transformational local entrepreneurship. Importantly, it calls upon the least developed countries not to overlook the pivotal and complementary role played by large enterprises, alongside medium-sized and smaller enterprises, with a view to the least developed countries formulating deliberate strategies to nurture entrepreneurship that has impact. By encouraging least developed country policymakers to avoid policies that might undervalue the benefits of entrepreneurship, this report makes an invaluable contribution to least developed country efforts to add value to their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mukhisa Kituyi
Secretary-General of UNCTAD