Written by Eugene Dragut, 2019 Westpac Asian Exchange Scholar
I’ve never considered myself an entrepreneur or as “an ideas man” as Darryl Kerrigan from my favourite movie The Castle puts it. However, through my connections within the Westpac Scholars’ community and armed with an innovative idea for the medical industry, I found myself in Fukuoka, Japan in May, attending the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance (YEA) Summit as an Australian delegate.
This unique opportunity was made possible through Usman Iftikhar, a fellow Westpac Scholar and Co-Founder of Catalysr; an award-winning start-up accelerator empowering migrants and refugees to launch their own start-ups in Australia. This year Catalysr took the reins from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) in leading the Australian delegation, made up of 11 entrepreneurs.
Prior to the Summit, we met with the Australian Trade and Investment (Austrade) Commissions in Tokyo and Fukuoka. I was astounded by the magnitude and level of trade between the two countries; it opened my mind to the importance of Japan as a strong international partner. The delegation also had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other prominent companies in Japan including Unilever, Kyushu Railway and Pokémon Company.
Presenting the theme of “Imagination Economy for a Sustainable Future”, the Summit focused on the impact of new technology driving new and unchartered aspects of the economy, and how imagination is the heart of truly ground-breaking innovations. Proposals for a sustainable future ranged from considering environmental impacts and socially responsible bottom lines to long term, multi-decade approaches to building enduring companies and communities.
The most inspiring aspect for me however, was the diversity and representation from the Australian delegation. We had members from early stage healthcare companies, entrepreneurship education providers, tech start-ups, professional services, consumer goods, and product manufacturing and exporting. The group was also diverse in terms of students and experienced entrepreneurs, almost 40% women, and had several minority representations with our delegate lead, Vivek Mahadevan, commenting, “I’m really proud to lead such a strong and distinct delegation to represent Australia overseas.” I also came to highly respect Aimee Zheng, another Australian delegate and somebody I considered a mentor in my time in Japan. She led the establishment of a G20 YEA Women’s group, as an effort to empower female entrepreneurs.
With the conference behind us, we are only at the beginning of our journey. The core purpose of the G20 YEA is to engage with G20 leaders to coordinate global action on shared priorities for young entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and Small-to-Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) are the main job creators in the G20 economies, employing more than two-thirds of the private sector workforce and providing more than 80% of net job growth.
Every year the G20 YEA produces a written report that outlines the areas of opportunity and lists their recommendations. This year’s report suggested:
- Promote free trade, mobility and entrepreneurship across borders;
- Improve access to finance and capital;
- Support entrepreneurship as a means to address social and environmental challenges;
- Invest in digital infrastructure and services for development and shared growth;
- Ensure quality entrepreneurial education to enable tomorrow’s society.
The full communique can be found on the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance website.
The Summit delegates worked with Japan’s Junior Chamber International and the Japanese Trade Minister who committed to personally delivering the communique to Japan’s Parliament and to the other world leaders at the G20 Summit in June. It was inspiring to see the commitment of the Japanese Government to consider the YEA recommendations. The Australian delegation still has a way to go in engaging the Australian government, with fellow delegates and myself endeavouring to connect with Federal and State ministers, so policies may be implemented in accordance with the communique released.
Catalysr is hoping to continue the momentum and is already planning for next year’s Summit in Saudi Arabia. If you consider yourself “an ideas person” or an entrepreneur, I encourage you to apply to become an Australian delegate at the 2020 Summit. You’ll be exposed to the importance of entrepreneurship in shaping Australia’s, and the world’s future.