Combatting Poverty through Entrepreneurship

Panel Discussion

Too many people in developing and emerging countries face serious challenges, such as devastating poverty, and a lack of perspectives. Countless of them, seeking to escape the dire situation in their countries and hoping for more prosperity and peace, undertake inconceivable risks while attempting the journey to Europe. Many lose their lives in the attempt. Until the living conditions for these people in their native countries improve, we can not expect the ongoing situation to change. 

Could an increased support for entrepreneurship be the much needed approach to improve those conditions? This question was at the centre of a panel-discussion at the Westerwelle Foundation, which saw three experts come together to discuss the possibility of combatting poverty through entrepreneurship.

The panel-discussion took place on occasion of the visit of the five Westerwelle Foundation scholarship recipients, who are currently undergoing a one-year entrepreneurial training programme at The DO School. Members of the panel were Marina Schuster, board member of the German African Foundation (Deutsche Afrika Stiftung), Sophie Eisenmann, co-founder and CFO of Yunus Social Business, and Florian Hoffman, founder and President of The DO School.

These three experts concluded without a doubt, that entrepreneurship definitely is an instrument with which to facilitate economic improvement.

“There are so many talented young people in this World, with so many uniquely wonderful ideas, all they need is for someone to show them a promising perspective,” Florian Hoffmann remarked.
In his role as the President of The DO School, he constantly comes in contact with many young people from impoverished backgrounds, who all appear to share the same trait – the unrelenting desire to fulfil their dreams, and generate an existence, which not only benefits them, but also their social environment. It goes without saying, Hoffmann stressed, that wherever governments, NGOs and corporations evoke an impulse, they are capable of making significant changes.
Marina Schuster concurred with Florian Hoffmann’s statement. She acknowledged, that while for example Africa had enormous potential, the obstacles to be overcome before eventually creating one’s own enterprise, were just as large. She drew attention to the inefficiency of the contemporary methods of aid distribution, which neglect to consider the differing characteristics of the regions receiving this aid. The aid recipients would benefit far more, when aid providers can rely on the capabilities and determination of the local people, and strategically support their proven strengths.
This could be done, for example, by initiating consulting services for ongoing entrepreneurs.  
Sophie Eisenmann of Yunus Social Business reiterated, that continuous support and consultation provided to entrepreneurs and Start-ups were just as vital, as financial investments at the beginning of a venture.

On the long run, a sustainable culture of entrepreneurship would only emerge in developing and transitioning countries, if these entrepreneurs could rely on assistance and advice not only while making their first steps, but during the course of the entire journey.