World Bank Youth Summit 2013: Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030

By Irina Tsukerman
posted on November 7, 2013 in Global Development, Professional/Career Development

World Bank Summit 2013 brought together promising young entrepreneurs from all over the world to engage in a conversation about battling youth unemployment, ending world poverty, and making the world a better place by putting creativity, passion, and enthusiasm into action. Several specific factors differentiated this summit from similar solution-oriented gatherings. First, it was a good attempt to bring young activists and entrepreneurs and large private institutions together. What made this summit unique is the presence of a large number of budding entrepreneurs from very disadvantaged backgrounds and developing and/or conflict-torn settings. The group was dedicated to creative resolution to the economic and political challenges, which stand on their path to success, and thus provided and extraordinary combination of innovative ideas, utilizing both cutting-edge technologies and original twists on old-school method. Bringing in entrepreneurs and activists from similar backgrounds who already “made it”, as well as traditional models from the financial world created a distinct outlook on the way world problems can be dealt with. Such an approach is a promising combination of interesting novel ideas, technology, initial financing, and mentorship needed to make theories into reality. Second, the young entrepreneurs gave specific advice about achieving success in exceedingly challenging environments with limited resources and obstacles preventing young people from finding opportunities, be it lack of access to education, health, or shortage of jobs for new graduates.


Dwayne Samuels, for instance, cited the importance of working hard, focusing on the entrepreneurs rather than start-ups (which come and go), and connecting talented individuals. Kamel Haddar, the founder of ATLAS, an Algerian-based group, which gives young people a chance to connect and find opportunities, cautioned against relying on the government to create jobs and opportunities and cited his own recipe for success: models and mentors – more experienced entrepreneurs, willing to share insight, experience, and guidance, self-confidence, and entourage – family, friends, and all supporting figures one encounters along the way.. Mr. Haddar is contemplating eventually running for political office, as a response to the current challenges in Algeria, including poverty, unemployment, and government corruption. Njideka U. Harry, the founder of an educational program for prospective entrepreneurs, described a framework for creating a thriving organization for young people from disadvantaged background.


She noted that any such organization should have policies and programs that address cultural or behavioral issues which would preventing disadvantaged youth from attaining an entrepreneurial attitude. These policies would also provide preparation for raising entrepreneurs, including teaching business and financials skills, and the support for business growth, such as seed investment. Ms. Harry added that the numerous challenges for budding entrepreneurs include lack of assets, a need for long-term business support, policy accelerators, developing proper motivation and mindset. That is why it is important to address not only hard qualities, such as good business plan development, practical skills, good background and education, but also soft qualities, including leadership, communication skills, confidence, humility, and self-reflection.


Another successful and unique element of the conference was a series of thematic workshops. The education-focused workshop was a Shark-Tank like scenario, which included a young winner of the World Bank contest. (Shark Tank is a popular program features entrepreneurs pitching their start-up ideas to a panel of noted figures in the business, who either accept the ideas and choose to invest in the start-up, or give feedback on how to make the business plan viable. In all instances, they give valuable suggestions to improve and grow the start-ups) This young entrepreneurcreated an interactive online education program for Nigerian students, presented his project and was given advice and feedback by a panel of educators and successful entrepreneurs. Such workshops are an important part of the exchange of ideas and experiences, indispensable for anyone who is even contemplating growing a concept into a thriving business. Later, a panel of more experienced, mostly World Bank employees discussed the steps this organization is taking to support new businesses and their founders all over the world.


These steps include youth development projects focused on mentorship and training in Kosovo, as well as linking youth from Croatia to sophisticated scientific and technological institutions to encourage education and partnerships. Other such programs include creating labor intensive works projects, such as developing irrigation systems and painting schools, for short term financial boosting. World Bank and other such institutions are also pushing microfinancing heavily, and creating hackathons for finding creating solutions to common problems, such as water shortage, in Egypt and the Balkans. In order to attain challenging but important goals, such as eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, the conference focused on a combination of inspiration, determination, and problem-solving – and with these kinds of creative, lively, and multifaceted interactions, young entrepreneurs and their mentors are bound to make much progress.