The private sector plays a key role in economic growth, innovation and employment. Economic research conducted by EMEA experts and others shows that MSMEs provide two thirds of all formal jobs in developing countries, and up to 80% in low-income countries. More specifically, in the Euro- Mediterranean region, MSMEs represent more than 99% of all EU firms and offer up to 60% of all private sector employments in the Union, while representing 80-90% of all formal MENA enterprises and creating only about 30% of total formal private employment in MENA countries. In Egypt for example, the MSMEs sector accounts for nearly 99 percent of the total private enterprises. It is worth mentioning that the sector represents more than 80 percent of the informal sector while its contribution to the export base does not exceed 4%, however. Historically, the public sector has been the main provider of formal jobs throughout the MENA region, but many governments are now facing budget difficulties and shifting priorities, meaning that the role of MSMEs in creating employment will become even more determinant.
One very important aspect for the development of the private sector is the role of entrepreneurship in creating employment and whether there is an environment conducive to it. In particular, entrepreneurship is likely to play a key role in lifting the youth out of unemployment or preventing them from becoming unemployed after graduation. This is especially in those high added value sectors while benefiting from the digitalization era where there is broad margin for the development of MSMEs and young adults have an advantage compared to their older counterparts in terms of literacy, including the capacity to speak foreign languages. In this sense, the domain of the digital economy in general (i.e. apps and other web-based businesses) and sharing economy in particular (i.e. platforms aimed at pooling resources together within a community) bear an undoubted potential for the development of private initiatives among the youth, especially in local contexts where informal networks prime over formal institutions and public services have their limits. Creating the conditions for such type of initiatives to flourish, including promoting the involvement of young entrepreneurs of the diaspora willing to develop activities in their countries of origin not necessarily requiring to move permanently from their current countries could represent important opportunities to face the galloping unemployment rates among the younger segments of the population.
Entrepreneurship is a multi-dimensional concept and must be well anchored in economic policy to maximize its potential for economic development and employment creation.
EMEA Initiative on Entrepreneurship in the Euro-Mediterranean aims to:
- Promote surveys and research on this topic;
- Promote best practices;
- Develop and contribute to international networks; and
- Provide policy recommendations