Minister Atif Khan On Enabling Youth to Rev Pakistan’s Economic Engines

We talked to the minister Atif Khan on enabling youth to rev Pakistan’s economic engines and here is what he had to say.

Currently, 64% of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30 – out of this percentage, 29% is between the ages of 15-29 years. This makes Pakistan one of the youngest countries in the world and the second youngest in the South Asian region after Afghanistan. It is due to this reason that the government along with donor organizations like the UN, World Bank and others, is working on enhancing youth’s capabilities and skills as a part of the Government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025. In order for youth to unleash their potential, it is key to create meaningful opportunities in education, employment and engagement to empower them in the true sense. According the National Human Development Report by UNDP, Pakistan would need to create 4.5 million new jobs by 2022 and enroll millions of its out-of-school children to properly utilize this 64% youth bulge that provides a unique opportunity for the economy of the country, to grow faster and sustainably.

Youth Impact Challenge

KP government’s Youth Impact Challenge program is one of the major initiatives to enhance the capability of youth, as stated by Atif Khan, KP Minister of Tourism who also has the portfolio of sports, archeology, culture, museums and youth affairs. KP Govt Youth Impact Challenge’s first round ended in 2018, where 38 startups were given 50 crore in the first phase – among the startups that got funding, there was a special quota for tourism, in light of the government’s focus on tourism as one of the areas where major capacity building and development is happening in KP. According to Minster Atif Khan, the amount for the Youth Impact Challenge Program has now been increased to PKR 5.9 billion.

The Youth Impact Challenge was launced in 2017 in collaboration with LUMS – as a result of the program, 311 youth based businesses have emerged. For the first cohort, a total of 4465 youth, both male and female, had applied; they went through a very transparent process under LUMS qualified observers and technical business experts and among them 311 youth were selected for 188 different businesses. The Youth Impact Challenge adopts a two-pronged approach – overcoming the rising unemployment and equipping youth to earn through respectable means. Out of these 311 youth, 100 were of female entrepreneurs.

The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has entered into a large-scale partnership with the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for an entrepreneurial education initiative, ‘KP Impact Challenge’. Under this landmark collaboration, LUMS is working with 9 different universities of KP including University of Swat, Hazara University, University of Haripur, KUST, Kohat, Gomal University, University of Malakand, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, University of Science and Technology Bannu and Women’s University Mardan.

The Target Market of the Youth Impact Challenge

A large portion of Pakistan’s youth does not have the relevant exposure therefore their experience is also limited. The KP Impact Challenge caters to these individuals, i.e. lower-end of the market. Through this program, the youth gets the opportunity to have a training platform for transforming their ideas into reality. The journey from dream to reality is a long one. This program fills the skill gap required to turn ideas intro reality and run a successful business. A unique aspect of the ventures under the KP Impact Challenge is that they will be driven by impact creation, leading to economic well-being of the region; promoting quality education and socio-cultural aspects of the province. The important part is to make these ventures and the program accessible to the rural youth, which has been excluded so far. The KP Youth Impact Challenge is based on a grant model. The grants model will provide an incentive to the youth of KP and encourage greater ownership of their ventures. Moreover, they will be provided with free of cost training by experts.

In addition to the KP Youth Impact challenge, the provincial government is also working on developing the tribal youth and bringing them at par with the rest of the country. There is no dearth of sports talent in the merged districts – the government is giving them the support they need to harness their talent and compete on the national and international level. In this regard, the establishment of sports complexes will enable the tribal youth to get sports training to polish their skills.

For this purpose, Rs7.5 million has been released for the upgradation of sports complexes in Mardan, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Haripur and Rs20 million has been approved for indoor gymnasium in Buner while Rs25 million has been released to set up 20 squash courts. According to Minister Atif Khan, under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the tribal youth of KP is to be brought into the mainstream.

Rs1 billion has been earmarked only for arranging 42 sports competitions in seven tribal districts and six sub-districts (former frontier regions). This changing landscape presents numerous opportunities for youth to opt for entrepreneurship and turn their ideas into reality.

With the government actively promoting tourism, the sector offers numerous problems that aspiring entrepreneurs can solve through their business ideas – some of the most significant areas where initiatives are being taken in tourism include ecotourism villages, 4 integrated tourism zones including Mankyal Swat, Thandiani, Abbottabad, Ghanool Mansehra and Madaklasht Chitral. These developments combined with skill development programs undertaken with the help of donors are putting KP on its way to tremendous growth.

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