by Kawal Preet, President, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa (AMEA), FedEx Express
It’s safe to say that the global winds have been shifting, and then some. For many observers – economic, environmental, or otherwise – the outlook feels uncertain. So far, 2022 has presented businesses large and small with plenty of fresh challenges to navigate.
Solutions, of course, will require global cooperation: policies that acknowledge how interconnected we are across the globe. The region of Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (AMEA) has a rich and dynamic history of capitalizing on those connections, seizing advantages, staging recoveries, and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.
For any entrepreneur, starting a new business may seem daunting – perhaps more so today. But we know one simple truth: throughout history, times of turmoil have inevitably been the catalyst for positive change. An entrepreneurial mindset sees solutions, not problems, and recognizes that challenges are a platform for innovation. And we know something else: it’s the talent of tomorrow who will lead. Two-thirds of the Gen Z population have already started or are planning to start their own business. That’s an immense generational shift that simply hasn’t been seen before. Entrepreneurship, then, is the future.
In the AMEA region in particular, there’s a vast and diverse talent pool to draw from. The region has almost 60% of the global youth population and boasts some of the world’s most successful start-up ecosystems. India has become the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world after the U.S. and China. Start-ups in Africa are reaching unicorn status at an increasingly faster pace. While in Southeast Asia, start-ups are forecast to see a combined valuation of $1.1 trillion by 2025. Economic recovery that helps local communities to thrive will rely on a robust pipeline of business activity and an enterprise culture that seeks to tap global trade links.
Global trade remains an essential part of how we future-proof and rebound into 2023 and beyond. The IMF has urgently called for new collaborative solutions that reduce trade policy uncertainty and the removal of damaging trade restrictions to boost productivity and improve people’s living standards. It also warns that economic reforms need to tackle more than rising inflation and address longer-term challenges such as climate change adaptation and the transition to green energy, investments in human capital and digital transformation.
Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs want the same things. At FedEx16th annual International Trade Challenge in Asia Pacific – a student competition to find and champion some of the region’s youngest would-be entrepreneurs, I saw first-hand how the young people of today want to create new business models that shape the future in a positive way. Many are advancing in social impact or purpose-driven entrepreneurship and founding businesses that promote social good.
The next generation of business leaders are true changemakers. They have the power to ensure a sustainable future and build strong, equitable economies that benefit communities everywhere. These, we can agree, are global headwinds we can all get behind. And one thing’s for sure: for our youngest entrepreneurs to soar, we need to encourage them every step of the way.
Kawal Preet is the president of the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA) region at FedEx Express. Based in Hong Kong, Preet is responsible for leading the FedEx Express business across the AMEA region, including overall planning and implementation of corporate strategies and operations across more than 103 countries and territories with nearly 40,000 employees.