Posted: 8 November 2018                                                                                          By: Larisha Dhakal

On the 30th of October, representing Nepal Leadership Academy, I attended the National Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Dialogue (NYEPD) 2018, organized by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, and in collaboration with Daayitwa. The program’s objective was to highlight the concerns of youth entrepreneurs amongst government officials by facilitating a productive dialogue that engaged many stakeholders including banks, business incubators, academia, NGOs, associations and development partners. With around 400,000 Nepali youth seeking foreign labor permits every year, addressing the challenges and possibilities of youth entrepreneurs in Nepal’s enterprise ecosystem has become imperative. Young people play a crucial role in advancing innovation, and yet their voices are often marginalized. As a young person who holds interests in entrepreneurship myself, I was excited to attend a platform like NYEPD that placed the matters of youth at the forefront. This event was also a first of its kind to me ever since my return to Nepal.

Before the program started, the main hall began to fill up with attendees from diverse backgrounds. The unifying purpose of the meeting—to identify and understand the concerns of youth entrepreneurs and draft actionable policy recommendations—had succeeded in bringing together a broad spectrum of participants with varied experiences and areas of expertise. The high number of young people at the event was particularly uplifting to see, as it is crucial to have first-hand inputs from the targeted group in discussions pertaining to them. As I made my way towards the coffee stand, I stumbled upon a colleague I had met in the U.S. who now manages his startup in Nepal. He is in his 20s. The two young founders of Urban Girl, an important name in Nepal’s e-commerce sector, were also present. Urban Girl is an online shopping portal based in Nepal which has become a household name in metropolitan cities. Further, the guest list included several advocates for rural entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, and grass-root level organizers; still, the representation could have been stronger.

After a few opening speeches, the crowd divided into four separate clusters—access to finance, education and skills, access to information, a nd business ecosystem—each consisting of a moderator, a rapporteur, a presentation maker, and participants who wanted to contribute to the discussion. I was at the access to finance cluster which demonstrated active involvement from members across various sectors. The discourse comprised of wide-ranging stories, agreements, disagreements, concerns, and queries, each adding an important layer to the larger understanding of the socio-political context required to draft all-encompassing policy recommendations. Ms. Bina Pradhan, an advocate for women and small to medium-sized entrepreneurs, emphasized the need to find innovative ways beyond collateral systems to cater to the contextualized needs of marginalized communities. Representatives from commercial banks also shed light on their own circumstances and risks. It was powerful to observe individuals share and listen to each other’s stories and collectively outline SMART policy actions to move towards a larger shared vision of an enterprising Nepal.

Young people all across the world have acted as key agents for socio-economic development, and this event was an important reminder of that. While one event in itself cannot bring about all the desired changes, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

– Larisha Dhakal is an intern at Nepal Leadership Academy (NLA)