Sri Lanka entrepreneurs an economic force but severely wanting in B-Schooling

Despite playing a huge role in the country’s economy, Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and SMEs are struggling to advance their business capacities due to lack of skills and relevant business education. An international, multi-stakeholder meeting on entrepreneur education to be held next week in Sri Lanka is expected to address this core challenge.

“Only 16% of students in our education system enter the University. Therefore the government is fostering an Entrepreneurship and SME culture for our youth. We believe that SMEs are more than 70% of the total number of enterprises in the economy providing 45% of the employment and contributing to 52% of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP).  Despite these sectors acting as the growth driver of our GDP and are playing a very important role in employment and labour force, we find very few opportunities for them to develop their education and capacities. UN supported events such as the seventh UNESCO-APEID meeting on entrepreneur education that we are announcing today can open many new doors of opportunities for our SMEs and entrepreneurs who are keen to link with exports and the global marketplace” said the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 4 October in Colombo. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the press launch of the forthcoming 7th UNESCO-APEID Meeting on Entrepreneurship Education in Trincomalee, that will commence on 9 October at Trinco Blu. A leading entrepreneur education series in Asia Pacific, this is the first time that the UNESCO-APEID meeting held in South Asia and convened by UNESCO Bangkok. The milestone event is led for the region by Sri Lanka’s apex entrepreneur and SME business development agency, National Enterprise Development Agency (NEDA).

The previous (sixth) session was held in October 2017 in Manila, Philippines. UNESCO-APEID entrepreneurship education series calls multi-stakeholder support from government, education institutions, academia, private sector, international organizations and the students themselves and supports consolidating the network for entrepreneurship education among stakeholders. The first and the second sessions in this series were held in Hangzhou, China (in June 2012 and March 2013). Thereafter, the series continued to Kuala Lumpur (December 2013), Bangkok (two sessions-February 2015 and October 2015), Jakarta and Bandung (September 2016), sixth session in Manila (October 2017), leading to the forthcoming seventh session in Trincomalee. The specific objectives of the Trincomalee meeting are to identify various models of multi-stakeholder engagement in entrepreneurship education, share good practices of such in primary, secondary, tertiary and non-formal education, showcase selected enterprises, and discuss potential areas of joint activities to enhance multi-stakeholder engagement in entrepreneurship education.

Chairman of NEDA Dakshitha Bogollagama stressed that NEDA is proud to partner in this pioneering venture with UNESCO. “More than 200 local and foreign entrepreneurs, small business participants, policy makers, educators, and youth representatives from 21 countries are scheduled to join the 7th UNESCO-APEID Meeting on Entrepreneurship Education themed “Leveraging Multi-Stakeholder Engagement to Nurture Future Entrepreneurs”. UNESCO-APEID is an honour for Sri Lanka’s SMEs.”

Sri Lanka’s newest economic strategy for its entrepreneurs “Enterprise Sri Lanka” encourages young and “educated” entrepreneurs, which the pioneering UNESCO-APEID session expects to fulfil. NEDA is Sri Lanka’s apex entrepreneur development agency, aims to stimulate the growth, expansion and development of SMEs and “encourages the establishment and operation outside Sri Lanka of enterprises designed with a view to internationalize domestic enterprises capable of penetrating foreign markets.”

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