Young entrepreneurs from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have joined forces to form a new network to boost business growth and address youth unemployment.
The Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - West Africa (CAYE-WA) launched on Wednesday in Accra, Ghana.
The network aims to support youth business leaders to expand cross-border trading opportunities and will also provide a platform for recommendations to policy-makers to improve access to capital and markets, overcome barriers for business and enhance entrepreneurship education.
Representatives from government, the private sector and civil society were on hand to endorse the creation of CAYE-WA. The event was hosted by the Government of Ghana, with Isaac Kwame Asiamah, Minister for Youth and Sports noting that its launch is "most welcome at this time when most African governments are seeking innovative ways of solving the youth unemployment crisis".
“[It] will not only develop the skills, creativity, innovation, knowledge and confidence of young entrepreneurs, but more importantly will accelerate their social, political and economic integration through peer to peer learning and networking among the youth of West African states."
The Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs – West Africa has come at an opportune time to help the youth develop their capacities and support them to contribute to the sustainable development of their respective countries,” he added.
The Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Katherine Ellis, applauded the establishment of CAYE-WA, recognising that it would help drive trade and give young entrepreneurs a stronger voice with policy-makers.
“This initiative will help position entrepreneurship as a credible career choice, and ensure that young entrepreneurs have the access and tools to be successful, create jobs, and contribute to development and economic growth,” Ms Ellis said.
"It is directly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG Goal 8, aimed at achieving sustained and inclusive employment and economic growth. It will also contribute toward SDG 16 which is focused on promoting peaceful societies for sustainable development."
CAYE-WA is modelled on existing Commonwealth networks in Asia, the Caribbean, and East and Southern Africa, which were all founded with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
"Going forward, we plan to connect the young entrepreneurs with their colleagues around the Commonwealth so that we can foster and increase trade between all our countries,” Ms Ellis added.
Mr Bernard Uduro Takyi from Entrepreneurs Club in Ghana was elected as the inaugural Regional Coordinator of CAYE-WA. "Poverty is a disease, and the only way to eradicate it in a sustainable way is through entrepreneurship. Part of what CAYE-WA seeks to do is partner with government and other strategic partners to advance youth entrepreneurship,” he said.
“I hope that one day I will be able to travel to Nigeria, Cameroon and Sierra Leone, or any other country in the Commonwealth of Nations, and meet young entrepreneurs who are members of CAYE.”
Emmanuel Sin-nyet Asigri, Chief Executive of the Ghana National Youth Authority, an entrepreneur himself before being appointed to his current position, welcomed the initiative as a valuable contribution to youth development and nation building. "Without young people’s ideas and skills, we would be missing the best hope… for our current development and the future,” he said.
He also urged the young entrepreneurs to use the Sustainable Development Goals as a platform to “generate more innovation and creativity" and offered his support to the Ghana members of CAYE-WA, urging other countries to follow suit.
As early actions, CAYE-WA plans to
The inaugural CAYE-WA Steering Committee comprises:
Regional Coordinator: Mr Bernard Uduro Takyi – Entrepreneurs Club