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‘Entrepreneurship’, when treated as ‘enterprise’, helps young women and men develop new skills and experiences that applied to many other challenges in life.

In the Oxford Thesaurus, ‘enterprise’ is defined as “resourcefulness, initiative, drive, imagination, enthusiasm, zest, dash, ambition, energy, energy, vitality, boldness, daring, audacity, courage, get up and go…”

It is worthy noting that these attributes are generally associated with youth.

In that sense, youth have “the qualities of resourcefulness, initiative, drive, imagination, enthusiasm, zest, dash, ambition, energy, boldness, audacity, courage…” (Schnurr and Newing, 1997:2). Ghai (1988:21) also notes: “youth are known to possess qualities of enthusiasm, motivation, enterprise, risk-taking, flexibility, energy, resourcefulness and willingness to try new approaches”. Bennell (2000) in this regard argues that the challenge for governments, NGOs and international bodies seeking to improve youth livelihoods is to “tap into the dynamism of young people and build on their strong spirit of risk-taking”.

Carlos Borgomeo, Vice Chair of the OECD LEED Directing Committee and President of Imprenditorialita Giovanile (IG) S.p.A (which is one of the ‘best practice’ youth enterprise promotion institution later reviewed in this paper) appears to support this view, arguing that:

“This is the opportunity that has to be seized. Youth has a natural disposition for innovation and change on which we can capitalize, as long as we are clear that successfully launching a new enterprise – however small –  is a process of innovation.” (OECD, 2001:9)

The Centre for Youth Entrepreneurship Education adds that:

Effective youth entrepreneurship education prepares young people to be responsible, enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers and contribute to economic development and sustainable communities”[1]

It follows, therefore, that policies to promote youth entrepreneurship need not be seen as a departure from the broad policy orientation needed in any case. As the OECD report (2000) observes, programmes to train young men and women for self-employment and help them to achieve it can enhance what must be done to attack youth unemployment in general. This is based on the recognition that not all young people can become entrepreneurs in a business sense. Enterprise skills can, therefore, help youth adapt well to other non-entrepreneurial careers.

Moreover, the success of the ‘new economy’-however defined-is dependent on the promotion of a culture of entrepreneurship. It has been observed that youth have the capacity to understand it and be its pioneers. This is reflected in high youth participation in internet business start-ups (OECD, 2001; Curtain, 2000).

Given this situation, the promotion of youth enterprise in general and youth entrepreneurship in particular is vital. The importance of this promotion should also be seen in the context of improving social attitudes towards entrepreneurship. Collectively, these influences are referred to as an ‘enterprise culture’.[2]

[2] Drawing on Gibb (1988), White and Kenyon (2000) define an ‘enterprise culture’ as a “set of attitudes, values and beliefs operating within a particular community or environment that lead to both ‘enterprising’ behaviour and aspiration towards self-employment” (p.18).