Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian property rights advocate, tells us there is $9.3 trillion of “dead capital” in the world, owned by the “poor” but uninvested, unused, and tied up in informal markets. CK Prahalad told us about the vast, untapped buying potential at the bottom of the global pyramid. Forbes magazine finds more millionaires in China than the United States. There is plenty of opportunity in global markets but the rules out there are different – sometimes nonexistent, often stacked, and ever-changing.
So what does it take to do business?
Hint: The difference in market environments often lies in the political environment.
Like markets, democracies adapt, respond, and rise to new challenges. The strongest democracies, like the strongest markets, are open, flexible, and participatory. Savvy entrepreneurs get involved, join associations, and engage politically to strengthen policy through democracy. They know it’s about more than how they run their businesses, it’s about how the market functions for them, their suppliers, and their customers.
Entrepreneurs are crucial to building free and fair democracies that deliver opportunity to all. Their economic success provides jobs, supports a competitive marketplace, and increases business participation in the democratic process through business associations and chambers of commerce.
Yet, in many countries, institutional barriers prevent people from becoming entrepreneurs or render existing firms incapable of growing. The effects of this exclusion have been clearly visible in the upheavals of the Arab Spring. To overcome it, supporting entrepreneurship must go beyond helping individuals and instead focus on building entrepreneur-friendly environments with legal structures necessary to establish and develop open market-oriented systems.
This conference is meant to be a focal point for a larger effort highlighting entrepreneurship and a platform for institutionalizing and popularizing successful approaches to entrepreneurship-focused reforms, not a one-off event. It will bring together an integrated audience of international development and policy experts, donor organizations and foundations, thought leaders, businesses, and entrepreneurs. CIPE will bring partners from developing countries, representing leaders of business organizations and individual companies.
Satellite events with audiences in several international locations are also planned. A monthly newsletter leading up to the conference will draw attention to the latest trends, articles, research, successes, and toolkits available. A full conference report and participant survey will offer practical views and advice for engaging the democratic process to address barriers to entrepreneurship at a policy level and through membership groups or other business support organizations.