Statement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe, Round Table ‘Jobs for the 21st century’, Vienna
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe that this Round Table on Jobs for the 21st century addresses the most important topic of this summit. Because a job provides so much more than simply an income. On a personal level, it builds self-confidence, and fosters dignity and personal development. It also provides people with better prospects for yourself and your children. And on a larger scale, employment brings stability and development to societies.
Earlier today I underscored the importance of entrepreneurship and private sector involvement in tackling climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. I also said that governments have a role to play in promoting entrepreneurship, especially for young people – and women in particular. And I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about two hands-on initiatives to show that we in the Netherlands and the EU mean business.
The first example is the Orange Corners initiative – named after the Dutch national colour. We launched this scheme a few years ago in South Africa. To help fight youth unemployment. ‘Orange Corners’ are seedbeds of innovation and incubators for start-ups led by young people. They provide tailor-made training and coaching to local entrepreneurs and build a network of young African entrepreneurs and Dutch companies already working in Africa. To make the initiative more inclusive and sustainable, half the young participants are women, and the entrepreneurs taking part have to make a real contribution to at least one SDG.
A key element of the initiative is to link start-ups with companies and knowledge institutions in African countries and the Netherlands. You could say that an Orange Corner is a launch pad for African start-ups and a landing pad for Dutch entrepreneurs. Our mission is to establish an innovative support system for entrepreneurs and partner with them in their business journey.
After the successful pilots in South Africa, Orange Corner projects were rolled out in Mozambique in 2017 and in Angola in 2018. A month ago there was a kick-off in Sudan, this month in Morocco and next year we will be setting up Orange Corners in the DRC, Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire. So the story continues.
The second example is NASIRA, a programme that’s being launched officially here today. It’s a programme that guarantees loans issued by African banks. Loans to people who wouldn’t normally qualify because they are too great a financial risk. So essentially, NASIRA is less about money than about prospects and opportunities. With this programme, the European Commission, the Dutch Government and FMO – the Dutch development bank – want to improve access to finance, especially for young, female refugees starting businesses.
It also provides a substantial Technical Assistance programme that helps both local banks and entrepreneurs to better understand and mitigate the risks of starting or expanding a business. By turning challenges into opportunities, NASIRA truly helps address poverty and empower people to commit to a future in their own community.
So yes, ladies and gentlemen, jobs are key to the future, and it’s up to us, as governments and political leaders, to work together and empower more and more people to take that future into their own hands.