ONE Champion in Nigeria, Bushrah Temitope Balogun, is sharing how youth entrepreneurship in Africa marks the beginning of a new era.
Africa will account for 80 per cent of the projected 4 billion increase in the global population by 2100. The accompanying increase in its working-age population creates a window of opportunity, which if properly harnessed can translate into higher growth and can yield significant economic growth potential. As reported in a publication by Praullo Dummond, Vimal Thakoor and Shu Yu, Africa Rising: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend.
Also, innovation, grit, passion, commitment, and creativity underpins the structure that propels a burgeoning economic development in this century. These attributes figuratively describe the calibre of young people in Africa today and their drive to excel and change the face of entrepreneurship and pace of development in Africa.
According to International Labour Organization’s Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020: Africa, “The young people in Africa are confronted with multiple challenges ranging from economies that grew but could not create sufficient jobs prior to the global financial and economic crisis to sluggish growth post the crisis in part arising from adverse weather conditions and poor commodity prices. Africa is the only region where the youth bulge will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, presenting both an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend and an imminent time bomb and threat to social cohesion as well as massive migration in search of opportunities if appropriate policies are not implemented to harness the dividend.”
Despite the unfavourable realities of unemployment and underemployment in Africa, among other underlying challenges on the continent, its young population have consistently proven to be proactive, dogged, and foresighted in creating opportunities for themselves, therein solving problem across a wide range of issues through various evident engagements and impacts locally, regionally, and internationally. They have achieved laudable feats through masterminding mind-blowing and cutting-edge solutions to the arrays of issues affecting the continent and giving us a drawback in our growth and development. They are championing causes to promote and enforce the Sustainable Development Goals, providing smart agric business solutions and innovative tech advancements as seen with the recent acquisition of the Paystack company co-created by two young Nigerians by an international tech company, Stripe to the tune of about 200 million dollars. African youth has succeeded in carving a niche for themselves, even in global spaces, by being intentional and committed prime movers in changing the tides of development in Africa and leveraging on broad networks towards building Africa we all desire.
However, the zeal and resilience to thrive as a young entrepreneur in Africa are being impacted by varying challenges, stemming from non-existing incentives, insufficient technical support, inefficient governance, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of funds, which is at its core. Consequently, youth start-ups can’t thrive, and this breeds a budding youthful generation with a lacklustre performance in growth of the continent yet saddled with a bleak hope for better days ahead.
Meanwhile, the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of the lockdown measures has desolated the livelihood of many young people and truncated their strivings for socio-economic support. Also, the unprecedented global health crises has caused a major socio-economic downturn for most nations, especially African countries grappling with economic instability even before the occurrence. Hence, as part of the framework to revive the economies of African countries, there’s a dire need for the teeming population of young persons with lucrative and innovative start-ups ideas and initiatives to be empowered, capacitated, and harnessed to serve a pivotal role for a blossoming Macro,Small and Medium Enterprises ( MSMEs), which will, in turn, bolster, and upswing economic growth.
Therefore, African governments need to take diverse measures to achieve this by facilitating funds to support startups to address the adverse socio-economic effects posed by the pandemic, which has led to a surge in retrenchment and many start-ups have consequently folded up. African governments should also consider supporting young entrepreneurs by providing easily accessible grants to actualize their ideas and expand their businesses. Currently in Nigeria, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports just launched the Nigerian Youth Investment Funds to provide financial loan support for MSMEs and development training for entrepreneurs, the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund NYIF – NIRSAL MicroFinance Bank. This is quite commendable, but the government should work further on giving grants as opposed to loans in order to stabilize and strengthen entrepreneurial growth.
Similarly, fostering an enabling environment for businesses to thrive with friendly tax policies that support start-ups and Investment programmes and incentives MSMEs can benefit from. And, accelerate youth entrepreneurship via the creation of youth-focused entrepreneurship policies which convey the political will by the government to upscale entrepreneurship and create more jobs.
Governments should also create networking platforms and events young entrepreneurs can participate in, to identify and meet stakeholders that can offer mentorship in growing their businesses. Government should also be intentional about investing in skills acquisition for young people and also boost their financial capacity, technical skills, and business decision-making particularly in areas of agribusiness, thereby providing a sustainable solution for food importation and scarcity.
Lastly, it is imperative that African governments applaud, aid, and reinforce youth entrepreneurship in Africa by encouraging young people on the continent to maintain their momentum and upscale their efforts in fostering economic growth and development and allow them to grow at their pace while they provide the platform, resources, and support to build a better Africa for all.