I’m always a bit wary of politicians’ speeches. After all, this is their profession. This morning, however, in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, I was amazed and enthused after Malaysia PM Najib Razak’s and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speeches. Together, they launched the 4th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit immediately after the Global Youth Startup where 500 youths gathered to tackle the world’s biggest challenges in 3 days.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit Story and Platform
The GES is itself a very interesting creation. Noting that America and the Muslim world had tense relations, Barack Obama unveiled the concept of this summit 4 years ago in a speech in Cairo. Every year since then, in Washington, Turkey, Qatar and now Kuala Lumpur, GES gathers local youth and selected young leaders below 25, officials, and the usual suspects (VCs, startupers, big companies) for a crazy week.
This 4th summit has gathered more than 4 700 delegates from over 120 countries, to celebrate entrepreneurship as both a huge medium for emerging countries to be less dependent on resource-based economies and as a galvanising force for the energy – not to mention the occasional frustration – of the youth. With 60% of the population of ASEAN countries under 35, governments need to provide new opportunities. As Kerry and Razak stressed several times, Obama’s speech proved prescient: not even a year later, the “structural opportunity deficit” caused the youth to express their anger and overthrow the established authorities.
Entrepreneurship: Malaysia’s past and ASEAN’s future
On its own, Malaysia is quite an interesting place for launching a business. When the world was discovering the world wide web in the 1990s, said John Kerry, Malaysia had already built CyberJaya, the main part of the country’s Multimedia Super Corridor, officially opened in 1997. Furthermore, Malaysia had successful companies launched, such as Air Asia, one of the most popular low-cost air carrier in Asia, and within the ASEAN space, Malaysian startups publicly listed are the most valuable (LINK).
PM Najib Razak then added how South-East Asia, from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon, was full of youth and restless cities that just need better conditions to foster innovation. The role of governments is not so much to “be entrepreneurs”, but to provide the best possible conditions: recalibrating the attitude towards failure, funding research, offering tax incentives, and working towards greater regional integration. While still in the works, ASEAN should eventually lead to a unified market of 600 millions consumers.
Last but not least, the US Secretary announced the imminent launch of a partnership with UP Global to support 500 000 new entrepreneurs in 1 000 cities in the world. As he said to conclude, “When you’re free to pursue your own ideas, it’s good for you, for your country, and for the rest of the world. The USA want to be your partner”
Check out our report on Malaysia innovation ecosystem on Slideshare too