Is entrepreneurship the solution to global youth unemployment? Part I

My interview with Carsten Lexa President of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Alliance, Germany

Youth unemployment is on the rise globally.

So what are the solutions?

Before we get into the answer to that question let us take a quick glace at the problem. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an organ of the United Nations (UN), “estimates that the global youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 13.1 per cent in 2016 and remain at that level through to 2017 (up from 12.9 per cent in 2015).” Moreover,

the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook 2016, Trends for Youth report shows that as a result, the global number of unemployed youth is set to rise by half a million this year to reach 71 million, the first such increase in 3 years.

So what are the solutions?

In a word — Entrepreneurship. Well I must admit entrepreneurship is certainly not the only solution to youth unemployment but it is unquestionably a solution that holds tremendous power to empower and transform lives.

I recently did an interview with a friend of mine, Carsten Lexa, on this very matter. Carsten is the President of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Alliance Germany, member of the National Board of JCI Germany and the new Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Alliance, representing Germany in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Alliance (G20 YEA). This is a man needless to say that is not only convinced that entrepreneurship is the key to global youth unemployment, he is taking action to make it so. His insights therefore I thought should prove to be instructive or at a minimum, interesting.

I really started to notice the work of the G20 YEA last year when Carsten took a trip to Beijing, China before the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China and posted it on his social media.

China has long being fascination for me and I have had the privilege of going their twice and visiting both of those cities so I was very curious why he was going. Was it a vacation? Was it to meeting a client or a prospective client? As it turns it turns out it was for the G20 YEA. The what? Now being an avid follower of international affairs I knew of the G20, in fact I was following the lead-up to the Hangzhou meeting but the G20 YEA this was something new. The G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Alliance (G20 YEA) is a global network of 500,000 young entrepreneurs. The idea of this Alliance was born during the 2009 G8 Summit in Italy and was initiated at the G20 YEA Summit 2010 in Toronto. Its vision is to promote entrepreneurship; young entrepreneurs being the focal point to combat youth unemployment globally.

My interview with Carsten comes on the heels of the G20 YEA conference in Berlin, Germany, June 15–16, 2017, under the theme: Digital Trends for Future Business; which was held before the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany (July 7- 8, 2017). Here is Part I of the interview:

Ainsley Brown (A): First of all “Congratulations” to a Summit that was well received not only in the media but also — according to the postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, according to blog posts and according to comments from delegates — in the Alliance itself. I guess you are quite proud of what had been achieved?

Carsten Lexa: Well, of course I am very happy — we got a lot of recognition in the public, we got a lot of good responses from the Alliance itself, the delegates and our partners — especially from EY and Accenture — and our Communique was endorsed by the B20. All in all I would say it was a success. And I am very proud of my team that was very hard working and dedicated.

A: You introduced a few things to the Summit that were not seen before. Can you tell me a little bit more about them.

C: You are right; I got a few ideas from my travels that I thought would be a good fit for our Summit. For example I saw at the Readie Summit in Berlin in 2016 an opening speech be a robot. I thought that would be very appropriate for our Summit that would focus on digitalisation. I was very happy that we were able to get one. Then we had the Summit Magazine. I met the publisher, Chris Atkins from the CAT Company, at the B20 Summit 2016 in Hangzhou in China and he was very interested in working with me on a magazine for the G20 YEA Summit in Berlin. I also want to mention the Raspberry Pi´s that we gave to each delegate as a gift. I wanted to offer something that was connected to the topic of the Summit and I thought a computer would be perfect. Fortunately, a good friend of mine, Holger Holland from JCI Germany, helped me tremendously to get the funding for these devices. Another innovation that I wanted to have was the key note battles where two speakers “battle” about a topic on stage. In the past I was not very happy with panel discussions that tended to be boring if the panelists and the moderator were not engaging. Luckily I was able to introduce this new format. And finally I was able to change the system of how the Communique, the final paper with the recommendations to the G20 Leaders, was created. I wanted to have the delegates become more involved in the decision-making process, so I introduced a voting system. It worked quite well.

A: Very impressive! But now the Summit is over. What exactly is your current position in the G20 YEA?

C: I became the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the G20 YEA on June 17, the spokesperson of the Alliance. The Alliance is the voice of about 500,000 young entrepreneurs in the G20 countries; therefore I think have assumed a very responsible position. And besides of that, I am also still the G20 YEA President Germany, as well as a member of the national board of JCI Germany, the largest organisation for young entrepreneurs and executives in Germany.

A: The G20 YEA is the G20-wide Alliance of young entrepreneurs. Why should young entrepreneurs have a say regarding the decisions taken at the annual G20 Leaders´ Summits?

C: Young entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas and very often a fresh and rather clear approach to today´s problems. But on an international level they often lack a strong voice regarding their needs to do business in order to fight youth unemployment. By gathering into one Alliance carefully selected young entrepreneurs from the G20 countries while bringing around the table the most relevant organisations of young entrepreneurs in these countries, the voice and the impact of the Alliance will be much more powerful.

A: What does the voice of the Alliance say — how does the G20 YEA communicate with the Leaders of the G20 countries?

C: Each year the Alliance creates a communique that presents the political demands of the young entrepreneurs. Since 2010 the Alliance was very successful to get more and more attention from the G20 Leaders, especially because of the strong bond with the B20, the international group that represents the G20 business community and the connections with high-level politicians in the G20 countries. In 2017, the B20 even endorsed officially the G20 YEA communique!

A: On which topics is the focus of the G20 YEA?

C: The focus of the Alliance is on the promotion of entrepreneurship and on how to fight youth unemployment. It has identified 5 key barriers that discourage young people from starting their own business and therefore enable them to escape the trap of youth joblessness: excessive regulation and taxation; inadequate or inefficient coordination of many of the forms of support that are available; social attitudes that discourage risk-taking or stigmatize failure; the need for specific entrepreneurial education in schools and universities and access to funding to support start-ups and early-stage business growth. These five barriers became the pillars of the work of the G20 YEA and are prominently featured in the themes of every annual G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Summit.

A: What was the specific focus of the G20 YEA 2017 Summit?

C: The theme for the 2017 Summit in Berlin was “Digital trends for future business”. The young entrepreneurs shared their ideas on the future of business, on how digitalisation will change the way to do business worldwide and on what can be done, from their perspective, to create growth and employment opportunities, especially in the context of a more and more connected world. Specifically, the focus is on Digital Platforms, AR/ VR, the Internet of Things and Big Data and how they will influence future business.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Originally published at on August 8, 2017.

Special Economic Zone Specialist | Logistics and Global Value Chains Enthusiast | Educator | Blogger | Lawyer| Data Viz Student| Rugby Player