YourCommonwealth: 'Young entrepreneurs are rising'

31 May 2016

On 25 May 2016, millions of young people across Africa celebrated International Africa Day. Their hope for the future shines against the backdrop of a global youth employment and under-employment crisis.

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Despite their restricted access to finance and weak regulatory environments, young entrepreneurs in Africa are rising above these challenges, writes Collins Kimaro, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Tanzania.

On 25 May 2016, millions of young people across Africa celebrated International Africa Day. Their hope for the future shines against the backdrop of a global youth employment and under-employment crisis – a crisis to which research and practice points to entrepreneurship as a key part of its solution.

Undoubtedly, youth entrepreneurship does not come without its challenges. Nevertheless, many young entrepreneurs across the continent are pushing through the bottlenecks and reaching great heights. The Commonwealth Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop brought together young successful East African entrepreneurs with policy makers to learn from one another other. There are many challenges that emerged from the discussions but also demonstrations of the youthful zeal to rise above them.

One challenge identified was the regulatory environment that young entrepreneurs must wade through. Jennifer Shigoli is a young Tanzanian entrepreneur who struggled with the long process and high costs of formalising her manufacturing business. She explained that persistence was key and it is important “to have a clear goal on what you want to achieve so you won’t drop it when it becomes difficult.” Her vision for starting Malkia Investments was to help solve the problem of unemployment. She asked herself: ”Everyone is looking for a job but how about being part of the solution and creating a job?” This reminds us of the importance of character building when it comes to empowering young entrepreneurs and not just focusing on technical skills.

Lack of finance is another constraint that young entrepreneurs must rise above. Throughout the workshop, the young entrepreneurs and policy makers agreed on the need to overhaul traditional financing and revisit the concept of collateral. Some young entrepreneurs such as Brian Randich have come up with other innovative ways of raising capital. Brian decided to write a book and borrowed money from his father to publish it. He went on to sell 5,000 copies and used the revenue to repay the loan, as well as invest in his enterprise.

During the workshop, Francis Mondo, from the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, concluded that “entrepreneurship is not a panacea to the unemployment crisis. However, it is a critical intervention that can make a difference in downgrading unemployment, underemployment and poverty.” To do so, we must continue to tell the stories of young entrepreneurs, learning from their challenges and successes. This will continue developing the army of young African entrepreneurs who are rising up to help build the continent.