The rise of entrepreneurship has forced organizations, businesses, and governments to appreciate the role innovation plays in economic growth and development. It is now widely accepted by economists that entrepreneurs are a powerful driver of economic growth. This is especially true for low and middle income countries (LMICs), where vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems create opportunities for entrepreneurs and accelerate economic growth and job creation. For instance, in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide where more than 500,000 people were killed, it came as no surprise that Rwanda’s economy suffered tremendously. To begin rebuilding, the government undertook various transformative economic reforms that have since created a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem. As such, despite a difficult global economic environment, Rwanda’s economy expanded an average rate of approximately ten percent during recent years. In 2013, almost two decades after the 100-day slaughter, its GDP grew eight percent, making it the ninth fastest growing economy in the world.
The entrepreneurship ecosystem of Rwanda has provided a magnificent example of the importance of entrepreneurship in driving job creation and economic growth. And of course, education plays a vital role in creating a dynamic entrepreneurship ecosystem. Entrepreneurs need assistance in gaining access to education and resources to achieve successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Institutions of higher learning are uniquely positioned to provide such access. Their efforts can have a deep and profound impact in helping to develop robust and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems in developing countries. For instance, in 2010, Babson College, a leader in entrepreneur education, established the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center in Kigali, Rwanda in collaboration with the Rwandan Private Sector Federation. The center has worked to increase entrepreneurial activity in Rwanda by implementing Entrepreneurial Leadership Academies, and offering mentorship to prospective entrepreneurs.
From providing prospective entrepreneurs access to quality education, mentors and professional development, to creating meaningful partnerships, education is the cornerstone of launching an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurship is valuable because it creates an avenue for individuals to create, produce, and develop quality products for people in their community and beyond. This is not easy. Entrepreneurs must be able to correctly identify key issues affecting their community, and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to develop robust, innovative, and out-of-the-box solutions. At Patrick’s Kids Foundation, this is the spirit we want to foster in our scholars.
In 2019, we launched the PKF Internship and Professional/Entrepreneurship Development Program to introduce entrepreneurship to our scholars. It included initiatives that invest in the holistic development of our students, such as an introduction to technology and professional development. In collaboration with our partner, Haiti Projects, we provided four PKF Scholars summer internships to directly work with members of the PKF team in Haiti. These internships provided our scholars with meaningful work experience, insight into the inner-workings of an international organization, and best practices on how to contribute to an international value chain. Additionally, the summer internships focused on entrepreneurship development, and provided our students in Haiti the tools to start thinking creatively about how to prepare for the economy of tomorrow. Our approach is designed to help foster an entrepreneurial spirit in our scholars to promote creativity and innovation that seeks to bring about change and a mindset that embraces forward and critical thinking. We intend to continue our efforts in integrating entrepreneurship into the summer internship program. By incorporating a structure where PKF scholars can develop entrepreneurship skills we are encouraging the advancement of entrepreneurship ecosystems in Fond des Blancs Haiti.
We hope you will join us as we seek to expand our program. We are looking for higher education and financial partners to help us develop our model to empower the next generation of leaders in Haiti by leveraging the dynamism of entrepreneurship environments to drive sustainable economic growth. We truly believe combining the power of education with entrepreneurship development can help create meaningful and sustainable change in Haiti.
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