Note: The White House has announced the President Obama will not be attending GES because of the US Government shutdown.
First visit by a sitting US President since Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit in 1966; Obama also keen to discuss bilateral ties
GES to present different perspectives, but to ultimately find the ‘common language of entrepreneurship’
US President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in October in Kuala Lumpur, will speak about the importance of entrepreneurship, particularly for young people, in driving economic progress.
“He is probably going to discuss ways in which young people can tap into the entrepreneurial spirit, how to create new businesses and opportunities because ultimately, that is what is going to drive economic progress not just here in Malaysia, but across South-East Asia and across the world,” said Ben Rhodes (pic), Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.
“As you look to economic growth and job creation in the global economy today, you are going to need ideas and innovations coming from individuals, not just established businesses,” he told a special media briefing in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 2.
Rhodes, named in TIME magazine’s ‘40 Under 40’ list of powerful and prominent young professionals in 2011, was in Malaysia’s capital city to discuss preparations for Obama’s visit, which would be the first by a sitting US president since Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit in 1966.
He spoke with the media after meetings with staff at the US Embassy in the city, and the steering committee in charge of organising GES 2013, which would be fourth in the series. He had also met Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, the Secretary General of Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance, which is spearheading organisation of the summit.
Obama will also take the opportunity to discuss the United States’ bilateral ties with Malaysia with Prime Minister Najib Razak, who will also deliver an address at GES 2013.
The President is also expected to discuss multilateral relationships with Malaysian within the Asean context on a wide variety of issues, from energy and maritime security to economic cooperation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) negotiations.
“President Obama, since coming to office, has made no secret of his desire to strengthen ties with Asean, and that has been manifested by his attendance at the Asean and East Asian summits,” said Rhodes.
“He has also spoken of the need to deepen relationships across the region, both economically and politically,” he added. “Malaysia is a key part of these efforts.”
Rhodes noted that the GES was initially an initiative borne out of Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009, in which the President spoke about the need to reach out and engage the Muslim world. According to US Embassy officials, Rhodes wrote that famous speech.
In that speech, Obama identified “entrepreneurship as a value that the United States was particularly vested in, as a way to support innovation, opportunity and ideas that can lead to job creation,” said Rhodes.
“We hosted the first GES in Washington DC in 2010, and it was extraordinarily successful, with people from all over the world coming together to network and to discuss the entrepreneurial climate in their respective countries, and to share ideas on how to build capacity.
“What we’ve seen since then is that these entrepreneurs have kept on networking with one another, and some have gone on to do some remarkable things, including here in Malaysia,” he added.
The summit, originally targeted at the Muslim world, has since expanded to become a global event, and was held in Turkey in 2011 and Abu Dhabi in 2012.
This year’s GES will be held Oct 11-12 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and has as its theme ‘Empowering and Connecting Entrepreneurs.’
“Malaysia is a perfect venue for a global entrepreneurship summit,” said Rhodes. “It has an economy that is growing; an economy that is an engine of growth for this region; and one that is increasingly connected to the global economy.”
“Ultimately, cooperation and collaboration between people in the United States and people in Malaysia is going to be a win-win situation for both countries,” he added.
Building a startup nation
Rhodes said that the GES sets out to build a global network of entrepreneurs who can share ideas and collaborate on new businesses that would not only create jobs, but drive economic progress as well.
It also allows nations to discuss ways and methods to build the capacity within their own borders to encourage and promote entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship can be a true driver of economic growth,” he said.
When asked what elements were needed to create a climate conducive to entrepreneurship, Rhodes said that was seen in Silicon Valley is the “root for a startup nation.”
Creating a climate where young people with ideas can create a business depends on a number of different things, he said.
One would be the ability of entrepreneurs to access capital, “so that if you have a good idea, you know how to find the resources needed to turn that into a business,” he said.
“It also depends on the ability of people to form relationships, which is why networking is so important. One of the reasons why Silicon Valley has been so successful is that it brings together a lot of people who can meet with one another, share ideas, and in that way, create opportunities.
“That is something that can be replicated elsewhere as well,” he added.
He also said that it was important to create a “rules-based architecture” in which there is a predictable rule of law and environments that are friendly to those who want to start small businesses or take the chance on an idea.
“There are things that governments can do to ensure that people are confident of the legal and regulatory environment, and to ensure that there are incentives that can help,” Rhodes said.
There are many different factors in the equation, Rhodes said, and there are some countries which have adopted parts of the Silicon Valley model.
“Every country is different and is going to need different perspectives and approaches, but there are also some common threads,” he said.
“That’s why the summit is so important – it’s all these people coming together and sharing different perspectives, but finding a ‘common language of entrepreneurship’,” he added.
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