Lahore: Citi Foundation (Citi) in partnership with the British Asian Trust and the LUMS National Incubation Centre (NIC), Lahore on Tuesday hosted a graduation ceremony for 61 young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged urban areas whose businesses were incubated as part of the pilot project. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Minister of State on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari was the chief guest for the evening. In 2016, the British Asian Trust, NIC and the Citi Foundation launched the ‘Urban Youth Project’ under Citi’s ‘Pathways to Progress’ initiative to prepare urban youth to thrive in today’s economy. The objective of the programme was to reduce youth unemployment and increase sustainable economic development through entrepreneurship and leadership training. As a result of the programme, over a 100 jobs were created, with more than 30 new businesses launched and 60 business plans developed. The project was based on the firm belief that those who possess a skill should be supported to achieve their potential, regardless of their background. These capable beneficiaries were welcomed by NIC Lahore with an approach to ensure inclusivity. They were provided with an environment that was not intimidating to ensure maximum productivity in what could have otherwise been an unfamiliar setting. Speaking on the occasion, Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari commented, “It is heartening to see the high results this group of entrepreneurs has delivered given the right mentorship and opportunity. I hope the British Asian Trust, Citi Foundation and NIC Lahore continue investing in Pakistan’s youth so they can fulfil their potential.” Adeel Shahid, Head of Marketing and Public Affairs, Citibank NA Pakistan, further added, “The growing income disparity in Pakistan does not provide a level for the underserved youth of Pakistan. Mentoring and giving exposure to a variety of life skills helps young people get a head start that they need in order to excel in their life and careers. Pakistan has a growing labour force with 1.7 million young people reaching working age each year, and unemployment for them is set to rise to 8.6 million by 2020. This puts young Pakistanis at risk of exclusion, income inequality, reduced prospects and represents a serious challenge to Pakistan’s productivity and economic potential. Citi Foundation aims to work with credible partners, such as the British Asian Trust and NIC Lahore who share our interest in empowering our urban youth to ensure a brighter future.” The programme was co-developed and managed by the British Asian Trust, a UK diaspora-led organisation working to unlock and maximise the potential of people in South Asia through local, high-impact and innovative initiatives in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative prepares urban youth to thrive in today’s economy. It aims to reduce youth unemployment and increase sustainable economic development through entrepreneurship and leadership training. This year saw the expansion of Pathways to Progress globally with a $100 million commitment from the Citi Foundation to reach 500,000 young people with entrepreneurship and employability training before 2020. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, shared his thoughts on the programme in advance of the event, “We believe that there is terrific untapped potential in the young people of Pakistan. With the right support and training, young people can thrive in their careers and add considerably to their country’s prosperity.” Published in Daily Times, November 14th 2018.