OP-ED | Youth-led enterprises as solutions to Africa’s unemployment and drivers of economic growth, By Leah Nduati

By creating youth-friendly economic policies, African governments will help youth-led enterprises create job and entrepreneurship opportunities, thereby addressing the continent’s youth unemployment crisis.

 

 

Africa, the world’s youngest continent, is grappling with a pressing youth unemployment challenge.  According to a 2015 study by the African Development Bank (AfDB), one-third of Africa’s 420 million youth aged 15-35 were unemployed, just as another third were vulnerably employed. A more recent study shows youth unemployment rates to be as high as 60% across the continent, with the Covid-19 pandemic further deepening unemployment rates.

Against the backdrop of these gloomy statistics, youth-led entrepreneurship and enterprise innovation offer a promising solution to Africa’s expanding unemployment challenge by creating job opportunities and empowering Africa’s rapidly growing youth population. Unfortunately, the existing economic policies of African countries fall short of providing the necessary enabling environment and incentives for youth-led entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive. It is imperative for governments and all other stakeholders to act swiftly, as the urgency to support youth-led enterprises cannot be overstated.

Creating youth-entrepreneurship-friendly economic policies will lead to the proliferation of youth-led enterprises that will ultimately become significant drivers of economic growth, social development, and poverty reduction in Africa. Youth-led enterprises will not only contribute to job creation but also play a crucial role in addressing sustainable development challenges in critical areas such as housing, food security, transport and financial services. Without proper recognition and support from governments, the private sector, and development institutions, youth-led enterprises will struggle to reach their full potential.

To address this challenge, organizations like the African Youth Business Council (AfYBC) are tirelessly advocating for a more youth-friendly economic environment. AfYBC’s work is premised on mainstreaming young people in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which offers immense job and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people. Multiple studies about the AfCFTA have pointed to the central role of youth-led enterprises and SMEs in the implementation of the Agreement and Africa’s economic transformation.

To this end, AfYBC is engaging policymakers at different levels to ensure that the necessary policy frameworks are put in place to promote youth-led entrepreneurship and innovation across Africa vis-à-vis the implementation of the AfCFTA. This involves advocating for youth-friendly economic policies for young Africans to competitively engage in cross-border trade in goods and services. These include creating simplified business registration processes, access to finance and market opportunities, and tailored capacity-building programs so as to equip young entrepreneurs with the requisite skills and knowledge to thrive under the AfCFTA.

In this direction, resource mobilization will play a vital role in empowering youth-led businesses. Therefore, AfYBC is actively seeking partnerships and funding to provide investment financing, mentorship programs, and market access for African youth-led enterprises and startups. By facilitating access to finance and market opportunities, the Council will help young entrepreneurs expand their operations, enhance productivity, and create sustainable employment opportunities.

Recognizing the importance of capacity building among youth entrepreneurs, the AfYBC has introduced programmes that equip youth-led businesses with the necessary skills and knowledge. Through training programs, mentorship initiatives, and knowledge-sharing platforms, young entrepreneurs can enhance their abilities, navigate the complexities of the African and global entrepreneurial spaces and maximize their potential. By providing the right support, the AfYBC ensures that youth-led businesses are better prepared to overcome challenges and seize opportunities within the AfCFTA.

For youth-led entrepreneurship and enterprise innovation to address Africa’s youth unemployment challenge, African countries’ current economic policies and institutional frameworks must be reformed to create a youth enterprise-friendly policy environment and provide the required incentives for youth-led businesses to thrive. AfYBC seeks to contribute efforts toward the creation of a continent with a youth-friendly economic policy environment, mobilize resources, and build the capacity of Africa’s young entrepreneurs.

 

Leah Nduati is the interim president of the Afrikan Youth Business Council (AfYBC). For more information about AfYBC send an email to: youthbusinesscouncil@youlead.africa

 

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