Twenty four Bruneian youth entrepreneurs have earned 19 contracts worth $29 million through the Ministry of Energy’s (ME) i-Usahawan, prompting His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to call for the programme’s expansion outside the energy sector.
In his address at National Youth Day last Saturday, His Majesty said i-Usahawan should be expanded to the public sector and other identified sectors as part of Brunei’s growing youth entrepreneurship ecosystem.
i-Usahawan was launched in 2018 as an entrepreneurship development programme aimed at helping wholly local youth-owned startups enter the lucrative and competitive energy sector by earning their first contract with the government or government-linked companies (GLCs) – including those under the Brunei Shell Joint Ventures (BSJV).
ME ring-fences contracts in the energy sector considered relatively low-risk for i-Usahawan. These contracts are typically three years, with potential two-year extensions.
19 contracts have been awarded, with another 39 contracts set to be offered over the next few years. ME is targeting 100 contracts in total for the energy sector.
“From here we can understand that resilience is the key to the youth’s success, alongside personal qualities and an attitude of not giving up when competing,” said His Majesty on the positive results of the programme.
i-Usahawan entrepreneurs currently employ 300 Bruneians. According to ME’s Head of Energy In-Country Value (ICV) Romeo Wee Edong, 11 out of the 19 awardees are now pursuing sizeable contracts outside the i-Usahawan framework, with three already successful.
i-Usahawan entrepreneurs cannot renew their contracts or earn other contracts under i-Usahawan after completing their current contract. Romeo said this will enable i-Usahawan to continuously offer contracts to new, up-and-coming entrepreneurs while serving as a launchpad for its alumni to progress to other business opportunities.
“The objective is for i-Usahawan to be a startup platform for entrepreneurs; they gain experience in executing their contract and together with the training provided, this will position them to find new opportunities (after completing their i-Usahawan contract),” said Romeo.
After serving out their current contract, i-Usahawan entrepreneurs have options of vying for larger value contracts, seek out more technical scopes of work within their current field, cater to other corporates, or diversify their products and services.
Romeo added that ME would also be reducing the programme’s age eligibility to 18 to 35-years-old in line with the government’s latest youth policies.