Most emerging-market entrepreneurs probably are not aware of the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Fewer still are likely to be motivated by them.
What does motivate entrepreneurs is the opportunity to solve big problems. In emerging markets, meeting broad social needs such as financial services for the poor, off-grid energy and basic sanitation services represent tremendous business possibilities. That’s why small and growing businesses (SGBs) in these markets are both a significant investment opportunity and essential partners if we are to achieve the global goals.
If they ignore entrepreneurship, they will miss out on a key part of what will make the social gains truly sustainable.Randall Kempner, The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs
Yet global funding for entrepreneurship and small businesses is declining.
Recent data shows that despite the impact, global funding for entrepreneurship programs as part of the global development agenda has been declining. While impact investing continues to be a hot topic, and funds dedicated to impact investing are increasing, there is still a huge funding gap to be met if we want to unleash the full potential of these entrepreneurs.
In some cases, investment alone is not enough. Often, early-stage impact entrepreneurs need help building their teams, marketing their business ideas to global investors and executing a business plan. On top of that, increasing capital to entrepreneurs alone won’t solve the system-wide barriers to growing and scaling a business. But we have to remove these obstacles in order to unleash the potential of entrepreneurs to achieve the global goals at scale.
One aspect of that involves removing barriers based on gender. Women’s empowerment and gender are woven into the fabric of almost every global goal. Empowering women entrepreneurs and achieving the goals are two sides of the same coin. For example, we know that founding teams with at least one woman on the team are more likely to outperform male-only teams, but less likely to raise as much money as male-only teams. All-female founding teams have an even harder time raising money for their ventures. Making it easier for women entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses is a key aspect of achieving gender parity and helping economies flourish.
Organizations like the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Enclude, Technoserve and many others are working to help women launch firms. And the International Trade Center has recently launched a global initiative called She Trades to help link women-owned businesses to corporate supply chains.
From a shea butter business in Ghana to manufacturing chocolate in Peru, small businesses are generating impact. Cashew processors in Togo are creating good jobs, especially for women, and they are helping to enroll more children in quality schools as a result of higher incomes. An entrepreneur in Vietnam is using Internet and sensor technology to take the guesswork out of farming, yielding more crops and wasting less water. Small businesses in Mexico and Kenya are saving the lives of pregnant mothers, fighting cancer with better and cheaper screening technology, and helping address a national diabetes epidemic.
These impact entrepreneurs need support—and the global goals can help mobilize resources for them. Global foundations, corporations, and development institutions are publicly announcing their support for the goals and outlining action plans. If they ignore entrepreneurship, they will miss out on a key part of what will make the social gains truly sustainable. If we are serious about achieving the global goals, we cannot overlook entrepreneurial solutions to these challenges.
Photo credit: Techoserve.
This is the first in a four-part series in partnership with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurship exploring the role of small and growing businesses around the world in achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. See other editions here: