Young South African entrepreneur Karabo Songo has built a thriving advertising business over the past seven years, despite the significant challenges young people face when they try to start businesses in the region.
“Young entrepreneurs have limited access to capital and markets, lack skills and experience, have to deal with onerous regulations and systems, and struggle to have entrepreneurship recognised as a credible career choice,” he says.
Mr Songo will now have support from a network of young, like-minded business people. Young entrepreneurs from across Southern Africa have come together to form the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Southern Africa (CAYE-SA).
The network was launched at an event on Friday in Johannesburg, South Africa. More than 40 representatives from government, the private sector and civil society were on hand to endorse its creation. The countries represented are Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.
The Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Katherine Ellis, applauded the establishment of CAYE-SA, noting that it would help drive trade and give young entrepreneurs a stronger voice with policy-makers. “This initiative will help young entrepreneurs to build opportunities and networks, share knowledge and become a united voice on the mechanisms they need for success, which is so important to the economies of Commonwealth countries,” she said.
"It is directly aligned with SDG Goal 8 aimed at achieving sustained and inclusive employment and economic growth, and also has significant implications for SDG 16 focused on promoting peaceful societies for sustainable development."
CAYE-SA is modelled on existing alliances in Asia, the Caribbean and East Africa, which were all founded with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat. "Going forward, we plan to connect the young entrepreneurs in the Southern Africa region with their colleagues around the Commonwealth so that we can foster and increase trade between all our countries,” Ms Ellis added.
Mr Songo, representing Young Entrepreneurs South Africa, was elected the inaugural Chair of CAYE-SA. "CAYE is a great platform to create change using the pooled resources of young entrepreneurs, and self empowerment through sharing. For my own business, it has really liberated my mind and thinking of the global market opportunity in a more serious manner," he said.
Dr Bernice Hlagala, Director of Youth in the Government of South Africa, welcomed the initiative as a valuable way to connect young people across Southern Africa. "This Alliance will create an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs in the region to flourish, because they will have an opportunity to share success stories amongst themselves. This is also an important step towards fostering regional integration,” she said.
As early actions, CAYE-SA has agreed to partner with the Commonwealth Businesswomen's Network to pursue joint opportunities in the Southern Africa region and beyond, and members are also planning a bilateral trade mission of young entrepreneurs from Swaziland to Mozambique.
The inaugural CAYE-SA Executive Committee comprises:
Chair: Mr Karabo Songo, Young Entrepreneur South Africa (YESA) (South Africa)
Ms Tsepang Seisa-Chilume, R-Labs (Botswana)
Mr Napo Moshoeshoe, Youth Entrepreneurs Forum (Lesotho)
Ms Wangiwe Kambuzi, Youth to Youth Empowerment (Malawi)
Mr Flavio Quembo, National Young Entrepreneurs Asociation (ANJE) (Mozambique)
Mr Abed Erastus, Junior Chamber International (JCI) (Namibia)
Mr Mfundo Mohammed, innovators' Association of Swaziland (Swaziland)