Mr. John Kerry;
United States Secretary of State,
YAB Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Deputy President of Myanmar,
Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia,
Deputy Prime Minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic,
Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam,
United States Secretary for Commerce,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Four years ago, in Cairo University, President Obama described a new relationship between America and the Muslim world; one defined not by suspicion or hostility, but by partnership in pursuit of common aims. At the centre of this vision was economic development, and the promotion of opportunity for all.
2. Events in the Middle East and North Africa a year later showed this analysis to be prescient. Repressed by inflexible politics, marginalised and frustrated by a structural opportunity deficit, young Muslims cried out for change. The echoes are still being heard today.
3. Throughout the Muslim world, economic development – and the opening up of opportunity – remains a priority. In his speech, President Obama called for a summit on entrepreneurship, as part of a push to unlock possibility – not just for people in Muslim societies, but for Americans too.
4. Today, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the fourth such summit, here in Kuala Lumpur. Especially to all the leaders present. And it is a particular honour for Malaysia and myself to welcome the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the man from Massachusetts who has traversed the globe to promote peace and understanding between the U.S. and the wider world. We are grateful that he is here to represent President Obama.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
5. There are few better places to talk about entrepreneurship than South East Asia. From Kuala Lumpur to Yangon, our cities hum with a restless energy borne of aspiration. From the countless street stalls to the chaotic markets, immersion in a South East Asian city is an electrifying experience.
6. As we pursue development, the challenge for South East Asia – for our businesses, politicians and citizens – is to channel this energy into better outcomes: for our people, our economies, and our planet.
7. As we look to a multipolar world – where Asia plays a greater role in safeguarding global prosperity – I believe that greater opportunity for our entrepreneurs will not only drive national progress, but also help us address the great global problems of our age: poverty, sustainability, and development.
8. In the wake of the recent financial crisis, the search for new and more dependable growth has brought entrepreneurship into focus once again. Amidst the wreckage of the past few years, economists hope to find a little creative destruction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
9. Much has been written about the nature of entrepreneurship; about how it can provide a generational lift to flagging economies, and about what policymakers should do to encourage it. In essence, entrepreneurship is a three stage process. The first stage, of course, is people and their ideas. Then, vision is needed to spot the opportunity and grip it, without ever giving up. Lastly, an enabling environment is necessary to convert the opportunity into a successful and profitable venture.
10. Ideas and opportunities cannot travel through a vacuum: they must be born in an open, market-driven environment that welcomes them, nurtures them, allows them to flourish and spread. Creating an ecosystem in which ideas can be realised is one of the preconditions for success.
11. Around the world, there are different models for constructing such an environment; some organic in origin, others artificial. And there are specific policies that governments and businesses can deploy to help. But first, we must define what entrepreneurship means.
12. When we talk about entrepreneurship and innovation, we tend to focus on new industries, and the young prodigies who often lead them. And there are clear reasons for doing so: our societies are often preoccupied with youth, and we are in the midst of a period of profound technological change.
13. According to one study, around 70% of the goods and services consumed in 1991 were unrelated to those consumed a century earlier. Yet even 1991 now seems like a different time; mobile phones were still analogue, and there wasn’t a single webpage in existence. Many of today’s most recognisable entrepreneurs – people like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg – were still in high school. Smartphones, tablets, and apps were distant dreams.
14. Change on this scale, at this pace, brings previously unimaginable opportunities. But entrepreneurship is not the preserve of one industry, or one age group alone. It is much wider than that. It is also about the accumulation of insight and innovation over decades; about the process of refinement as well as reinvention. And increasingly, it is tied to social as well as commercial aims.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
15. Entrepreneurship takes place in remote African villages, where maize farmers use mobile phones to access real-time price information; in the Philippines, where a Brazilian-designed solar bulb is lighting thousands of homes for free; and here in Malaysia, where foreign orthopaedic surgeons are learning new techniques for regenerating cartilage from stem cells. Our task is to set the right conditions for it to flourish wherever the spark may be found. There are a number of things we can do.
16. First, we can recalibrate our attitude to failure. In a culture defined by a freewheeling and audacious capitalism – a country like the United States, which draws on a history of both liberty and plenty – a failed business gambit is seen as useful experience. Other countries have different traditions, but the principle – of encouraging people to attempt the improbable, without the undue fear of failure – can be more widely adopted. Here in Malaysia, for example, we can review and streamline our bankruptcy laws, to strengthen the safety net that allows entrepreneurs to bounce back.
17. Second, we can show that innovation is also the business of government; that policymaking can be done in open, responsive and collaborative environments too. Since taking office, I have made a commitment to make the government more accessible to the public, opening up the federal Budget process, and asking the people to take part in deciding our future priorities. Last year, we received over 2,500 public submissions, the best of which were incorporated into the Budget.
18. Third, we can keep funding research – and not just in areas already defined by innovation. Research is a public good, and state funding can play an essential role in supporting the hard study that leads to the big breakthroughs. The military and academic origins of the internet are well known; Google’s algorithm was financed by government research funding; and pharmaceutical companies benefit from countless publicly funded studies. Far from being an oppressive smothering force, the state can breathe vital life into some of the most difficult, abstract and rewarding endeavours.
19. Governments can and should continue to play an active role in supporting research, whether it has an immediate commercial application or not; and we should not hesitate to work closely with industry to promote innovation. Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute’s joint applied research ventures between business and the state provide one model for successful co-operation across the traditional sector divide.
20. Fourth, we can make it easier to start and run a business. Governments can provide the right kind of support to existing and would-be entrepreneurs: opening up access to the knowledge, finance and skills needed for success. Here in Malaysia, we have set up special funds to help entrepreneurs start and grow their business. There are funds to encourage technology use, and exports promotion. And we have provided tax incentives as well as capacity building and mentoring programmes. If I may slip in a quick advert for Malaysia, the World Bank has ranked us number one globally in terms of access to credit. Not just this year, but five years in a row.
21. But to further enhance entrepreneurship, I would like to announce the establishment of a Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre (MaGIC) in Cyberjaya – where companies are involved in creative multimedia, research and development, outsourcing and data management. The Centre will be a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs – with everything from getting financing from banks or venture capital to incubators for developing start-ups; from intellectual property registration to facilities for training, coaching and mentoring.
22. We are also proud to be hosting the 5th Global Social Business Summit next month; and the Global Startup Youth programme which is taking place now, with 500 young people working with 100 mentors on some of the world’s most pressing problems. I look forward to receiving their creative solutions.
23. Fifth, we will continue to invest in quality education at all levels; over the last 20 years, 85% of high-growth companies in the US were launched by graduates, and companies like Facebook and Google began on campus. We can also encourage our higher learning institutions to devote more time and funding to spin-offs, which can bridge the gap between research and commercialisation. And we can ensure that our young people see opportunity opening up for them as they ready themselves for the world beyond study.
24. Encouraging entrepreneurship means building an open society which encourages experimentation, and an education system that unlocks a world of possibility. Together, they can help build a culture in which innovation can prosper.
25. Finally, we can continue to work towards greater regional and international integration, to ensure entrepreneurs prosper from the full benefits of the global economy. In an age when entrepreneurs can work virtually from most of the world, barriers to the movement of labour, goods and services can slow down a new business. We in ASEAN are working towards the ASEAN Economic Community, which will bring 600 million South East Asian consumers within a single market. In addition, as we speak, various free trade agreements are being discussed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
26. By applying these principles, and learning from each other’s experience, we can help build and sustain economies in which innovation and entrepreneurship flourish naturally.
27. It is with this spirit – of openness to new ideas and shared experiences – that I am so pleased to welcome you all to Kuala Lumpur, and to declare the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit open.