Afrinection Insights: Tackling youth unemployment in Africa with entrepreneurship

Young people are considered the future of Africa's economy. Statistics, after all, show that youths between the ages of 15 and 25 account for 60% of Africa’s total population. The problem is that very few chances and opportunities await them: According to the International Labour Organisation, over half of African youths are unemployment. If we want a bright future for our beloved continent, we have to ensure young people have the tools they need to find meaningful employment. Stimulating entrepreneurship by all stakeholders is key, writes our Ambassador Daniel Muraga. This requires a multi-faceted approach. 

One of Africa's largest problems is youth unemployment. In North Africa, 29.3% of young people don't have work. In Sub-Saharan Africa, youth unemployment stands at over 50%, says the ILO, noting that more and more people in this region are therefore going the self-employment route. According to its 2017 Rising to the youth employment challenge report, four out of five young Sub-Saharan youngsters are currently doing their own thing.

Working with and for youths

Civil society has done wonders in terms of helping young people break into the world of entrepreneurship. One of these projects is Kenya's Kazi Kwa Vijana (Work for the Youth), an entrepreneurship cooperative that is keeping jobless youth busy by giving them access to public jobs, from road repairs to unblocking drainage systems and cleaning up markets. The money they earn is saved in a cooperative type structure and subsequently channelled to some 900 participants. These funds tend to be used as seed money to set up individual or partnership businesses, says MP Stephen Bittok.

“This project will make unemployed youth stop indulging in drunkenness since they now have a chance to use their skills to create wealth through setting up income generating activities,” he reported.

Jacob Kinyua, one of the program beneficiaries, is happy with the programme. “These jobs pay better than menial jobs offered around. Although we must wait for payment, I am able to meet most of my basic needs through these jobs.”

Incubating and accelerating talent

Whilst programmes like Kazi Kwa Vijana are essential, mentorship programs spearheaded by, for instance, the private sector and governments are equally important, particularly those aimed at helping young people start their own businesses.

Countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa are leading the way in providing business incubation and acceleration programs to young men and women, including virtual business incubation in East Africa, CCHub in Nigeria Inkomoko in Rwanda.

Funding youth-led small businesses

Finally, there is the role of microloans, particularly in terms of helping youth set up their own businesses.  Starting a venture, no matter how small, costs money. In East Africa, both mobile money service providers and local banks have introduced quick, unsecured and easy-to-access, low-interest loans through mobile phones. The most striking here are Safaricom’s Mswari, Kenya Commercial Bank’s Mpesa, and Equity Bank. Mainstream commercial banks are also providing asset financing where these assets act as the loan security. 

Fact is that solving youth entrepreneurship is far from easy and that there is not one single silver bullet. Another fact is that the private sector can only create so many jobs, particularly in uncertain economic times. That is why stimulating entrepreneurship should be seen as a vital component. Small businesses, when successful, will grow bigger - resulting in a growing capacity to create more jobs.

About the author: Daniel Muraga from Nairobi, Kenya, is Afrinection's East Africa Ambassador. He is an experienced writer and avid social media buff with a passion for Africa, entrepreneurship, IT innovation, and driving the continent forward. 

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