Joe Biden, US Vice-President, on fostering entrepreneurship and fighting corruption: Viewpoint

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Joe Biden, US Vice-President

People everywhere in the world are hungry for economic opportunity. And it’s about a lot more than being able to make money. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your community. And to be frank, the challenges ahead for all of us are immense, especially in regions with developing economies and rapidly growing populations. In the Middle East and Africa, for example, in a race to create tens of millions of jobs, just to break even, as the demographic wave of young people enters the labour force, it doesn’t matter where you live if people cannot get educated; or they get educated and they can’t get a job; or they get a job and can’t earn a decent living; or they can earn a living, but it gets siphoned off or stolen by corruption; or if half the population – women – cannot contribute to prosperity. Those countries caught in that vortex are not positioned to succeed in the 21st century because real and lasting stability depends on governments and citizens of this region finding a way to work together to expand opportunity and unlock the enormous talents of your people.

The challenge is formidable, but there are also incredible opportunities. When I travel the region and the entire developing world, I see young people with limitless promise to make not only their countries but the whole world better.

And the opportunities out there for entrepreneurship have never been greater than they are right now.

So how do we help? How do we help these brilliant young minds? How do we help entrepreneurship take even deeper root?

America’s experience, like many others’, teaches us that fostering entrepreneurship is not just about crafting the right economic policy, or developing the best educated curricula. Encouraging entrepreneurship is about creating an entire climate in which innovation and ideas flourish. No two countries do it exactly the same way. But there’s a common thread through all those that have succeeded. Just like the basic rules of physics, there are certain basic rules that comprise the path to prosperity in the 21st century. And societies and governments can choose for themselves whether or not to follow this path.

It takes an education system, but one that is universal, open to all, including girls and women, that trains people to be sceptical.

It takes a legal system that’s fair, where you know the contractual agreement you’ve made will be upheld and protected.

It also takes a system where judges are not corrupt, where you can risk starting a business; and failure and bankruptcy doesn’t land you in prison; and maybe most importantly, one that justly rewards and protects intellectual property.

For many societies, for any society that fails to protect intellectual property, I guarantee you that society will stifle entrepreneurship and economic innovation in their own society.

It takes a society that empowers women because entrepreneurship thrives when a society engages all the talents. It also takes a political system founded on the rule of law that protects basic liberties, including the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, one that roots out the cancer of corruption, the worst enemy of entrepreneurship.

In the 21st century where some countries seek to use oligarchy and kleptocracy as tools of international coercion, corruption is a threat not only to economic growth, but to security and sovereignty.

Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defence. It’s patriotism.

Lots of nations are struggling to decide whether they are confident enough to trust their people to follow that path. To the extent they do, they have prospered. To the extent they don’t, they haven’t.

All those factors I’ve mentioned create the context in our view for entrepreneurship to take root.

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