In praise of entrepreneurshipThe lack of entrepreneurship is one of the main reasons behind the growing unemployment rate among Nepali youths.
The lack of entrepreneurship is one of the main reasons behind the growing unemployment rate among Nepali youths. It has not only hampered the country’s economic development, but has also taken a toll on the youths’ physical and mental health. Greater entrepreneurship would have led to innovation, positive economic changes and expansion in opportunities, which are essential for building a strong and self-reliant society.
The lack of entrepreneurship in our society is not just due to a dearth of skill and talent, but also of a conducive environment. In particular, there is not enough motivation, social status and support for entrepreneurship, which is not just about doing business. It is also about looking at things in a positive way. It is about exploring the positive side of things and taking the task further.
Entrepreneurship is now becoming increasingly important because of the changes in economic structure and the use of technology. In the case of Nepal, we have shifted from an agrarian economy to a non-agrarian economy, and subsistence farming alone does not provide enough livelihood opportunities for many. This calls for new initiatives for business or self-employment in many non-farming sectors, although there are opportunities to be innovative and creative in the farming sector.
The use of modern technology coupled with a shrinking public sector has reduced the scope for large-scale employment opportunities in Nepal. Therefore, finding new ways of getting employed and earning a livelihood has become imperative for the people. It is clear that the government alone cannot provide adequate employment opportunities to a growing number of educated people, let alone to those with less education.
Two major obstacles
There are two main hurdles in developing entrepreneurship in Nepal—political culture and education system. These two are interrelated.
The political culture in the country has created an environment in which young people are not encouraged to develop ideas and undertake innovative enterprises. Young people feel that they can gain more from receiving political patronage than from working hard and being innovative. They have seen that a few of their friends who are involved in political parties and work as cadres lead a good material life and have good social standing. This motivates them to become party cadres and follow whatever advice comes from their leaders without thinking about the ethics behind such activities. This is more pronounced in left-leaning parties. Immediately after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, this trend could be vividly observed in our society.
It is very unfortunate that political leaders encourage patronage and spur young people to engage in bullying and aggressive activities to manipulate election results or to instil fear among the common people. Elections in colleges are a clear case; for example, Prime Minister Dahal recently incited his cadres to become aggressive and take physical action against students who do not follow their political line. He warned them that if this is not done, far-right groups (in his definition) will win the election, which will help undo the achievements of the ‘revolution’. Even when there is no such fear, political leaders make such a case in order to maintain control over politics.
Political patronage and a cadre-based political system have not only stymied entrepreneurship among youths, but have also spoilt the democratic political system. This has led to a rise in corruption. It is evident that political corruption is the biggest corruption in Nepal. In such a system, politicians and political parties are compelled to take cuts from public funds to support their cadres and political activities, as they do not have other means to earn money. This further discourages entrepreneurship.
Another hurdle is the country’s education system. Initially, the educational system aimed to produce white-collar workers in order to run government offices, control people and expropriate taxes from them. Such education discouraged physical work and entrepreneurship. There is still a general perception that ‘educated’ people should not get involved in farming or touch soil and animals. But as the white-collar government jobs have not expanded much, the unemployment rate among educated people has gone up rapidly.
There was a time when the education system all over the world was more or less the same—generating human resources to work in offices. But the system has changed in today’s industrial and developed countries, where entrepreneurship and innovation are emphasised. With change in technology and rise of the internet, there is growing emphasis on self-employment and small businesses. So an interesting contradiction is visible: increase in the number of corporate entities, and, at the same time, growth in
self-employment and small business, where more and more educated people participate, developing entrepreneurial ideas right from their school days.
To encourage entrepreneurship, educational institutions motivate students to apply their knowledge in generating ideas for enterprises—social or business—and support the implementation of these ideas. For example, in schools, teachers encourage students to generate such ideas and the schools maintain a small pool of fund to help students implement their ideas. Schools also develop links with industries where the students’ ideas could be applied. In universities too, professors have started helping students to develop enterprises based on their research or project study. Students are encouraged to work in industries as part of their study.
I have seen university graduation ceremonies in a few elite universities, where professors have told their students not to come for recommendations for jobs, but for support in creating enterprises that will help them, the society and the environment. And, the possibility of creating enterprises is not limited to
technical and business fields. Social scientists have also helped create many market-based enterprises. Of course, fostering an attitude of entrepreneurship does not mean comprising critical thinking.
A rethinking of Nepal’s education system is long overdue. Educational institutions should foster an entrepreneurial attitude among the students and politicians should help them raise their social standing.
Adhikari is a human geographer with an interest in development planning