Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Launch of AMCHAM Guyana Young Entrepreneur’s Program
June 8, 2021
The Honorable Charles Ramson, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Honorable Oneidge Waldron, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, President of AmCham Zulfikar Ali, members of Amcham, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen,
I am extremely pleased to stand here before you today, first of all, because we are in person, but secondly, because the issue of youth development in Guyana is something that is of utmost importance to the United States. A wholehearted congratulations to the Amcham secretariat, that is Zulfikar Ali and your team, Stephen Kissoon and Sarah Shaffie, for putting this all together. It’s a major step in the growth of AmCham in building a sustainable future for the private sector in Guyana, and I give you my warmest congratulations. And hat’s off to all the members who have volunteered their time and efforts to shape the next generation of business leaders.
As I have said before, the U.S Government is interested in promoting prosperity for all Guyanese, including for young people. The Embassy has several initiatives geared at building capacity among youth in areas of leadership. Since 2012, the Youth Ambassadors Program has been aiding in the development of emerging young voices who have championed several causes related to community development. There are approximately 66 alumni of this program today, who are leading in their communities and making Guyana a better place. The alumni of the 2018 program recently organized a mentoring program, on their own, which reached over 200 youth and connected them with many professionals throughout the country, in various fields. Our Youth Action Network is comprised of 30 young people who want to make a difference; they actually just had their annual meeting that included a wider audience of young people, and they focused their discussions on the practical aspects of running a business.
The Embassy has also greatly emphasized invoking an entrepreneurial spirit among youth with initiatives such as the recently launched Academy for Women Entrepreneurs that focuses on developing the capabilities of young women in business. This program is designed to empower women worldwide to fulfill their economic potential and, in doing so, create conditions for increased stability, security, and prosperity for all.
Peace Corps Guyana’s projects support the efforts of the Government of Guyana through the Ministries of Health, Education and Environment. They promote young people’s access to quality health, life skills education and youth friendly services. The emphasis also enables youth to be creative, disciplined, and self-aware thinkers, skills that are at the forefront of entrepreneurship.
The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI, is another flagship program designed to support an entrepreneurial spirit. Some of the youth members here today may have already applied for the YLAI fellowship, an exchange opportunity with an industry mentor in the United States. We have 14 alumni of this program in Guyana, and they are doing amazing things with their businesses and in their communities. In addition to the fellowship, however, there is the YLAI network, which provides free access to online courses that you can take today, in areas like financing or writing a business plan. I encourage all of you to sign up today at ylai.state.gov.
It is my firm belief that entrepreneurship can be cultivated from a young age. And it’s clear from today that AmCham shares that belief. I would like to especially recognize some AmCham members who have been working tirelessly with us and our partners at the National Library on developing a course in financial literacy, based on their own expertise in business and a passion for giving back. Hema Singh, Clinton Urling, Rawattie Mohandeo, Vishnu Doerga, Rowena Elliot, Iman Khan Cummings and Joel Bhagwandin all played a role in developing courses for children ages 7-18, plus a course for adults as well. The idea for this course came from our partnership with the National Library, with which we share the common values of education and youth development through the American Corner, that is scheduled to formally open later this year. The financial literacy courses will give young children from age 7, teenagers and adults the building blocks of business and entrepreneurial thinking. AmCham has been providing support via its partners who are working hard to prepare an informative program for the prospective participants. If anyone is interested, we are still looking for volunteer teachers for this course.
The AmCham Young Entrepreneur’s Program is a great initiative, and the Embassy stands ready to assist. We helped AmCham organize a speaker in May to make a presentation on the importance of financial technology and its benefits to building a smooth and responsive financial services sector. There are many areas that we can collaborate on, ranging from drafting legislation, describing what economic cooperation looks like, and what it means to have a predictable regulatory environment. Because at the end of the day, economic development is all about trust. Attracting investors is only one step in building Guyana. You have to retain them, and that means businesses have to be predictable and transparent. Predictability is critical to planning, legislation, investor relations, and process. And transparency is necessary so that there is a level playing field for all who are hoping for success. All of that builds trust – trust in systems, trust in institutions, and trust in government.
And you, my young friends, you are in a perfect position to help build that trust for your future, and for Guyana’s. In your lifetime, you will see jobs and careers emerge that we can not yet imagine. And that will be your challenge, to answer the calling of innovation to the problems that Guyana faces today and the problems it will face tomorrow. From infrastructure to energy, from the environment to food security to disaster management. It’s all waiting for you – to innovate, and to solve – with the tools you already have, and the skills that this program and others can provide.
I only ask one thing of you. Do not be afraid to take smart risks. One profession will fall away, but another may take its place. The average entrepreneur fails several times during his or her lifetime – but you learn from those failures and those experiences help you to improve yourself, your community, and your country. I’m proud that you took this step to join this program. The opportunities are here for you, and it’s your job to make the most of them. Talk to each other, build your network, and tell us old people how we need to change things. Because we do, and we need your input.
Thank you very much.