Policy Advocacy for Youth Entrepreneurship

2nd Place, 2012 CIPE Leading Practices Contest

The problem:

Pakistan is a country of burgeoning young people as almost 60 percent of the population is below 30 years of age. While unemployment in the country continues to rise, it is not possible for the government to provide jobs to this huge mass of youth in the public sector.

The Practice:

The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) is the first Chamber of Commerce in Pakistan that took initiatives for Youth Development and promotion of Entrepreneurship. A Young Entrepreneurs Forum was created to motivate youth towards entrepreneurship so that youngsters could enter the mainstream business world, embark on an entrepreneurial career, and contribute positively to developing the national economy. To achieve this purpose, ICCI held youth forums, conferences, roundtables, and mentorship training programs in which a large number of university students, policymakers, and academicians participated to deliberate on issues with particular focus on entrepreneurship development. A draft National Youth Policy was also discussed in detail with focus on entrepreneurship, microfinance, skill development and internship. The participants came up with many ideas and suggestions for providing youth opportunities to enter the entrepreneurial world and play their role in development. Recommendations were also distributed to relevant public forums for consideration and positive outcome.

Strong linkages have been developed with important local universities and colleges to promote entrepreneurship. Our Chamber is also creating links with international youth groups and forums through youth exchange programs. We are sure this strong networking will provide youth with excellent opportunities for sharing innovative ideas and learning best practices for entrepreneurship development. Cultural exchange programs are also undertaken to understand culture and develop people to people contact.

Why and How:

In the Chamber’s activities and programs, youth were not playing an active role and university students as well as prospective business starters were looking for a platform to gain guidance on starting entrepreneurial careers. Through the support of CIPE, youth were encouraged to come forward and share their views about the hurdles of entering the entrepreneurial world and ideas for entrepreneurship development. As a result, youngsters started taking interest in the Chamber’s activities and every year they contest in ICCI’s annual elections. Now in almost every Executive Committee, they have 25-30 % representation, where they express their views on important issues for the Chamber’s development. Apart from this, Young Entrepreneurs Forum, with a participation of about 60 members, is involved in carrying out many new initiatives for entrepreneurship development.

Steps and tips for implementing the practice:

Following steps were followed to start and continue this initiative:

  • In 2007, a proposal was submitted to CIPE for support of the youth initiative, as we felt that youth should be engaged in productive activities through entrepreneurship.
  • A Youth Committee was formed and given the responsibility of creating relationships with universities and colleges, relevant public institutions, and policymakers to advocate for youth issues.
  • Youth forums, conferences, focus group meetings and roundtables were organized to obtain input and recommendations from youth on the Draft of National Youth policy. Recommendations on entrepreneurship, microfinance, skill development and internship were submitted to the Government.
  • Young business professionals visiting important public and private universities started giving lectures to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship in youth.
  • Youth exchange programs were started inviting students from various universities.
  • Business plan competitions are organized.
  • Youth were given representation in the Executive Committee/Board.
  • Youth representatives were given the opportunity to participate in international forums including the World Chambers Congress.
  • Youth delegations visited many countries to meet youth groups and undertake business ventures
  • With the support of CIPE, an Entrepreneurship Development Center has been established in the Chamber


  • The ICCI Youth Conference developed various recommendations that were incorporated in the National Youth Policy of the Government of Pakistan.
  • Ministry of Youth Affairs has conferred Jinnah Youth Award and cash prize to ICCI on International Youth Day for promoting entrepreneurship culture among youth and taking effective initiatives for youth development.
  • The effort ensured significant representation of youth in the Executive Committee/Board that comes through a democratic election process.
  • Formation of Young Entrepreneurs Forum with a continuously growing membership.
  • Links between youth groups of local Chambers across the country have been created resulting in visible participation of youth in business associations’ activities and exchange.
  • The Entrepreneurship Development Center has been established and interaction with the universities has increased as groups of students regularly visit the Chamber to receive guidance on starting a business venture and the business process.
  • Through the Export Display Center, which will be completed within a year, incubation centers shall be established to develop new entrepreneurs.
  • Businessmen provide internships for university students so that they may experience the entrepreneurial culture.
  • Businessmen are now being encouraged to provide financial support for good business projects that are selected in business plan competitions.

Lessons from the experience:

  • Positive policy changes must be brought in for the productive role of youth for their own sustainability and economic development of the country.
  • Stronger networking must be created among business associations for advocacy of entrepreneurship promotion, particularly in youth.
  • Business associations should develop strong ties with universities to convey the need for introducing new subjects on entrepreneurship.