From fish-to fishing rods

We have to engage with the refugees from the Middle East in new and more sustainable ways. Right now the debate focusses entirely on how many, and what to do right now. This is an adequate response to the immediate crisis. But long term we have to learn from the development lessons learned in Africa. If you want to help long term do not give only fish-give a fishing rod.

This is the topic of my column today in Dagens Industri and I am inspired by the letter that Syrian businessleader Wafic Said wrote in the Daily Telegraph last week,

In this excellent letter, Said points out that refugees are fleeing as their state is collapsing. The IS vandals are destroying their cultural heritage, the regime bombs and tortures its own citizens. He also stresses that Syrians are naturally entrepreneurial, want to contribute and ambitious. (He forgot to mention that they are the best cooks in the world, but that is another story).

Refugees want dry clothes and a bed to rest in. But having rested their weary feet, they want to build their own lives, with full dignity, through hard work. Let us be innovative, sustainable and flexible in creating those fishing rods.

Sweden is great at receiveing immigrants the first step on the road, providing fish with generosity. But the second step, providing the more long term fishing rods, seems much harder in a country that comes third from the bottom  when it comes to getting immigrants into jobs, and has one of the worse entrepreneurial climates of all OECD countries (47 out of 52 place in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). It takes an average of 7 years to get you first job in Sweden, compared to 6 months in the UK. Or as Fraser Nelson, Chief Editor of the Spectator points out “Sweden loves immigration-but not immigrants”.

So before Sweden goes all finger pointing, some soulsearching is needed. As to why we are so good at providing fish, but fall so spectacularly short when it comes to providing the fishing rod.

Meanwhile at the ranch, we continue trying to improve ways of supporting immigrant women as they start businesses. Fishing rods-in spite of the sclerotic Swedish system.

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