The Power Of Youth Entrepreneurship: How Young People Are Changing Their Fortunes During These Tough Economic Times

By Didi Onwu, Managing Editor at the Anzisha Prize

There are countless reasons why young African people are opting for entrepreneurship as a career. One of these is the fact that there are simply not enough jobs. In fact, the African economy is not creating jobs equal to the supply of the available labour force.

According to the World Economic Forum, 77 percent of Africa’s population today is below the age of 35. The African Development Bank (AfDB) predicts there will be 850 million young people on the continent by the year 2063 and they’ll constitute over half of the working age population by this time.

A recent AfDB report indicates that 10 to 12 million young Africans enter the job market each year, and the economy on the other hand only creates 3 million jobs annually. This means that over 7 million of these young people entering the job market each year  have no choice but to either suffer unemployment, work in the informal sector, be underemployed, or start a business and create employment. 

Across the continent, many young people are starting and building their own businesses. From technology startups to innovations that disrupt conventions in industries such as agriculture and transport, young people are solving economic issues that confront them. They’re solving problems in their communities through the creation of employment and economic opportunities for themselves and their peers. 

Many of these young entrepreneurs have strong stories to tell, some of which have been documented by Africa’s premier entrepreneurship  initiative the Anzisha Prize, as can be seen from the examples that follow: 

Breaking down stereotypes and barriers

Having experienced unemployment after graduating from university and the consequent poverty which is suffered by the majority of the population in her area, twenty-three-year-old Masello Mokhoro from the Free State province in South Africa decided to become a job creator. Masello also faced hardships in accessing land for her business. She has a deep passion for the natural environment, community, and socio-economic change. 

It was the combination of this passion and the hardships that confronted her, particularly in the agricultural sector, which informed her decision to establish Starlicious Enterprises – a broilers and piglets agribusiness that serves her immediate community and surrounding areas. 

Masello employs permanent and seasonal employees, combating the dual challenges of high unemployment and poverty. She also mentors young university students in agriculture about the business side of the industry.

Food security through technology

Nigeria has in the last two decades faced high food insecurity as a  result of neglect in domestic food production due in part to what economists term the resource curse and the weak currency. Eneyi Oshi, a 22-year-old technology entrepreneur whose innovative web and mobile platform Farmisphere distributes  farm produce, including chicken, fish, and eggs from her other business Maatalous Nasah, to urban dwellers across the country aims to mitigate this challenge. The business also sells farming equipment to small-scale farmers operating from their own backyards. Eneyi’s ultimate goal is to end food insecurity on the continent through these innovations and to end high joblessness amongst the youth in the process.

Making a living off the land

Continuing on the subject of food insecurity, it is estimated that 2.1 million people (14% of the analysed population) in Kenya are experiencing elevated levels of acute food insecurity today. Twenty-two-year-old Martin Ondiwa started Greenfarms which farms and sells fresh produce to consumers and vendors across Kenya, including kale, maize, onions, capsicum, papayas, and passion fruit. It was Martin’s mother who noticed his love for being productive with the land and gave him a few hectares to get him started on his farming career. The business continues to grow in bounds and employs young people on the farm and in the office.

Confronting severe economic hardships

With a passion for technology and artificial intelligence, Zimbabwe’s Munyaradzi Makosa tasked himself with the responsibility to solve Africa’s problems, doing so under some of the harshest trading environments in the world. It is common knowledge that it has never been as difficult as it is in Zimbabwe today to do business or to live. Munya’s task has therefore begun at home. The 21-year-old entrepreneur and tech enthusiast taught himself how to programme computers and to market his business and skills in this digital era. 

Munya and his three co-founders established Farmhut with the core purpose of enabling a conducive and sustainable farming environment amongst farmers all year round. Farmhut is an AI-enabled marketplace connecting Zimbabwean farmers to markets in and outside the country, helping them reach customers and secure fair payments for their products. Farmhut earns revenue through a subscription service to these farmers, vendor sales of fruits and vegetables, and a chatbot advertising space for agricultural service providers. The business aims to expand across the SADC region in the next three years.

Helping young people access higher education

Tsantatiana Rakotoarimanga from Madagascar is a 23-year-old technology entrepreneur whose company, Dream Study Agency, through its online application Mapwess, helps students in Madagascar apply to universities abroad. Tsanta recognised the shortages of higher education facilities in his home country and the difficulty in accessing these facilities elsewhere due to financial issues, and therefore decided to create a solution. Mapwess is an online platform that supports these students to find and apply to globally recognised universities. The venture has assisted students from Madagascar, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Togo. To date, Dream Study Agency has been able to place 80% of its students in recognized worldwide institutions through its platform. It has signed nine agreements with nine universities in Mauritius and Rwanda. The company employs students as agents, allowing them to earn income through commission.

These efforts undertaken by young people in response to problems they have identified have proven to have a significant impact and to bring benefits to the lives of young people and their communities, contributing to economic growth on the continent. It is for this reason that the Anzisha Prize, created through the partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and Africa Leadership Academy, identified these young entrepreneurs for their catalytic potential to ending the continent’s chronic joblessness and meeting the anticipated jobs demands highlighted in the AfDB report.

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