Youth Co-Lab 2021 Launching

The Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry (MTCI) and the United Nations Development program (UNDP) in Timor-Leste today launched a new Innovative Competition Program which aims to encourage young people with unique and innovative social business ideas across a range of sectors.

The Innovation Challenge, under the theme “ENHANCE ENTREPRENEURIAL INNOVATION FOR THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY”, focus in particular on key activity sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, manufacturing, food production and technology as well as others that have high economic value and contribute to solving communities’ problems. The program will be implemented with IADE, CCI-TL and Technical Training Centres in Timor-Leste.

At the launch of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, UNDP’s Timor-Leste Country Representative Ms Tuya Altangerel, spoke directly to the young entrepreneurs of Timor-Leste: “You are the future of the country”.

Ms. Altangerel noted the impact of the covid pandemic around the world, showing fragilities of nations in the face of external and internal shocks, but also highlighting the opportunities that can be created.

“The pandemic and other challenges such as the recent floods open the opportunities to re-start, and to-relaunch more sustainable and resilient development pathways – by prioritizing our blue planet, people, and shared prosperity”, she said.

The program targets entrepreneurs that want to help develop and grow the private sector of Timor-Leste through innovative MSMEs, and this way help diversify the country’s economy. The challenge is an opportunity for MSMEs to implement new ideas as well as to design initiatives to continue improving the quality of their product, production processes and customer service and to optimize their operation to achieve their economic targets.

A total of up to 30 candidates from the 12 municipalities and RAEOA will short-listed and, from those, 20 MSMEs will be selected to participate in a bootcamp business and training workshop before presenting their final pitch for business ideas. After this a final list of 10 MSMEs will be awarded.

Ten winning MSMEs in the first round and a further 10 in the second round will get financial support to acquire production machines as well as equipment. These MSMEs will then have the opportunity to participate in the incubation program which will be facilitated by the National Secretary for Social Business Program during 3 to 6 months.

This Innovative Competition program is implemented between MTCI, UNDP, IADE, CCI-TL including Technical Training Centers that provide maintenance services for equipment and professional trainings. The main objective of the challenge is to encourage a strong establishment of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises while helping create job opportunities, strengthen entrepreneurship, environmental innovation, and youth involvement in the economic development of the country. It will further help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Those eligible for the program include Timorese (women and men), individuals and groups who have initiative and want to start a business in the activities recommended by the Government. Beneficiaries and Youth who have received industrial skills training from MTCI and young people (women and men) who have creativity and innovative ideas to start social businesses (start-up) can also participate. The program is also open to other beneficiary groups (especially women and persons with disabilities) who have innovative business or priority Social Enterprises ideas, with individuals or groups of persons with disabilities as well as the LGBTQ community encouraged to participate.

Winners of the challenge have an opportunity to become a youth job creator, helping other young people and families while reducing the unemployment rate, one of the country’s biggest challenges. MSMEs will also provide further post-pandemic economic growth, enhance independence of families and young people, and reduce reliance on Government or other support. They will also play an important role in reducing the number of imported foreign products and increasing the number of products exported abroad.

This year, UNDP has already implemented several programs, working together with communities, youth, local and central governments to rebuild and recover from the double disasters of the covid pandemic and the Easter Floods. A particular focus of these programs has been young people and women.

Among the programs, are the first ever in Timor a loan-guarantee scheme for entrepreneurs and social businesses, together with the MTCI and BNCTL, which offers loans up to 3 percent with grace period for up to 6 months. The UNDP invested in the initial capitalization almost USD 500,000, and the scheme has now the total capitalization of almost USD 1 million (please insert the correct figures), with co-investments from the Government. “This unique mechanism allows social businesses led by youth to grow and in turn generate employment for others”, Ms. Altangerel said.

The UNDP also implemented the Youth Internship Program under the Supporting Entrepreneurship and Employment For Women And Youth (SEEWAY), to help equip and prepare youth with the required skills to be ready for the working world. The program already benefits 64 interns and hopes to be “one of many important steppingstones toward a robust labour market and increased opportunities for young men and women in Timor-Leste”.

Further initiatives include the continuation of the Youth: Co Lab, the Accelerator Lab and Knua Juventude.

“Through these complementary initiatives we have re-designed and re-invigorated UNDP’s focus on employment and skills development for the 21st century labour market; and building communities resilient to climate induced disasters”, Ms. Altangerel said. “The work does not stop here, and we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and innovations to ensure that the growth and shared prosperity is owned by the young generation of Timorese. The future is in the hands of the youth – let’s give them with the right tools, support and incentives to help them achieve their best”.

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