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Better for business – Young East African entrepreneurs join forces

22 May 2015

To drive business and create employment opportunities, youth entrepreneurship organisations from six East African Commonwealth countries have agreed to join forces and form a regional alliance.

The decision to create the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - East Africa (CAYE-EA) was unanimously reached at a forum hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat from 20 to 22 May 2015 in Uganda.

The proposed vision of CAYE-EA is for “a thriving environment for young entrepreneurs in East Africa” that contributes to sustainable economic growth and social development. The new network's mission will be “to connect, unify and build the capacity of young entrepreneurs across East Africa, so as to drive trade, advocate for change and enhance the entrepreneurship culture”. 

Participating organisations will work together at national and regional levels, and in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, to build and establish the group, which is expected to launch later in the year.

Speaking at the forum, Katherine Ellis, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Director of Youth, welcomed the formation of this new alliance of young entrepreneurs. 

She said: “The potential for the new Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs in East Africa is enormous particularly in the context of large youth populations and positive forecasts for economic growth in the region. It will also create a united voice for advocacy to enhance the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Ms Ellis added: “This type of network has worked extremely well in Asia, promoting and encouraging enterprise among young people within and across borders, which, in turn, unleashes young people's talents and assists in addressing spiralling youth unemployment.”

The CAYE-EA will mirror the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs - Asia (CAYE-Asia) formed in 2012 and the recently established Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Caribbean & Canada (CAYE-C&C). These coalitions seek to connect young entrepreneurs from Commonwealth countries in their respective regions.

Brian Randich, Chairman of the Kenya National Association of Youth Enterprises, described the network as a “timely initiative” and highlighted the positive impact it will have on the region.

“It will help address the unemployment crisis through promotion of youth entrepreneurship as a valid alternative economic activity across the whole of the East Africa region. We thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for making the formation of the Alliance possible, for it will transform the entrepreneurship ecosystem."

Addressing the participants at the forum, Ms Fatin Arifin from Brunei Darussalam, the president of CAYE-Asia, shared the group’s experience and provided inspiration to the young entrepreneurs from East Africa.

Recent winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award 2015, Julius Shirima, a young Tanzanian entrepreneur who also attended the meeting, described the important role the group will play in transforming the business landscape for young people.

He said: "This is one of those unique moments for young entrepreneurs coming together to have a unified voice on the challenges and opportunities we face in the East Africa region. CAYE-East Africa will provide us with a platform to engage our leaders and other stakeholders to enhance the entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially the regulatory environment, which will really benefit young entrepreneurs.”

The countries represented in the alliance are Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda.

The government ministries and organisations that participated in the forum are as follows: Kenya Youth Business Trust (Mombasa and Nairobi); National Association of Youth Entrepreneurs, Kenya; Kenya National Chamber of Commerce; Ministry of Youth & Sports, Government of Mauritius; Action4Change, Rwanda; Rwanda Youth Action Network; Seychelles National Youth Council (Entrepreneurship Board); Kijana Jiajiri, Tanzania; DARECHA, Tanzania; Tanzania Entrepreneurship Competitiveness Centre; Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Government of Uganda; Enterprise Uganda.