Colombia: Selected Issues Paper


Colombia: Selected Issues Paper

Youth Entrepreneurship Initiatives1

A. Introduction

1. Colombia has significantly reduced its overall as well as youth unemployment rates over the past decade. Overall unemployment declined to 8 percent compared to 15 percent in 2001, while youth (14–28 yrs old) fell from 24 to 16 percent over the same period. Youth employment increased by 1.6 percent per year on average over the last 12 years. Because youth unemployment is believed to be closely related to the unequal education system in Colombia (see chapter 1), promoting entrepreneurship is seen as a way to overcome youth unemployment and inequality. According to surveys, in 2013 the propensity to start a new enterprise was strongest in the age group 35 to 44 years (30.6 percent) followed closely by the group 25-34 years (25.8 percent) and up from 2012. Colombia has a national strategy on entrepreneurship and is also engaged in regional initiatives including other Latin American countries.

B. Government Initiatives

  • Colombia has recently developed a youth entrepreneurship strategy—Colombia Joven Emprende 2013—which is part of the presidential program on youth. Since 2000, the program has partnered with the private sector to support youth entrepreneurship through training and learning programs, as well as expanding social networks by leveraging through universities. The strategy in 2014 shifted to cultural entrepreneurship, creating information points where youth can find out about government and international initiatives to strengthen cultural industries.

  • The Rural Micro-enterprise Assets Program (Oportunidades Rurales) provides some 32,000 families with training and skills needed to build successful businesses. Run by the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Oportunidades Rurales focuses on investing in rural micro-enterprises, capacity building and knowledge sharing. This US$32 million program has US$20 million in IFAD funding.

C. Other National and International Efforts

  • Colombia has an active civil society with many organizations focused on promoting youth development, through churches, clubs, universities and other actors. One organization that provides civic participation opportunities is the Corporacion Grupo Tayrona. Formally established in 1999, this organization operates the Training School for Youth and the Environment, which provides knowledge and skill-building for young people ages 14 to 30, in an effort to encourage their involvement in environmental and sustainable development and conservation efforts.

  • Another similar organization is the Terpel Foundation, launched in November 2004 by Terpel S.A., the largest gasoline distributor in Colombia. The Foundation’s projects and programs focus on civic commitment, and civic and cultural education. One of its main programs, the Citizenship Education Program is currently being implemented in the country’s three largest cities and aims to increase leadership and promote young people as agents of change in the way people behave in public spaces.

  • The main objective of the Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship Project, funded by the IADB, is to strengthen the entrepreneurial fabric of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali by developing a model for creating competitive enterprises for the youth. The components of the project include: innovation and training activities, network access, and dissemination of results.

  • Youth Business International is a coordinated approach to support deprived communities across the country in areas including social housing, education, culture, rural and environmental development, and social development. This program aims to create 500 businesses dedicated to youth within the first three years.

  • Fundación Colombia Joven is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the capacity and abilities of vulnerable youth in rural communities to actively participate in the development of sustainable, just and harmonious societies. In partnership with Canada World Youth the foundation provides training and technical assistance through hands-on learning experiences in community service projects.

  • The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship provides textbook-based and experiential programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities and to plan for successful futures. The programs are highly collaborative and reliant on strong partnerships with local school districts and teachers.

  • The Park of Creativity is an innovation-driven program whose main aim is to encourage and support young people’s efforts towards creativity and invention, as well as technology commercialization. The ideas are patented and granted intellectual property rights after which the innovations are is ready to be exploited, either through technology license-out or by inventors’ own start-up companies, through venture capital or other types of early stage business support.



Prepared by Izabela Karpowicz.