Toolbox to fix youth unemployment
A study released in June 2015 by Approved Index, a UK-based business networking group, ranked Africa among the top for entrepreneurship. Similarly, the Entrepreneurship around the World report listed Uganda, Angola, Cameroon and Botswana among the top ten.
Unemployment around the continent is worrying. A 2013 study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC-based think tank, found that African youth (15-24 years) constitute about 37% of the working age population. The same age group, however, accounts for about 60% of jobless people.
Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a think tank based in Nairobi, says: “High youth population, poor policy choices and a lack of comprehensive employment plans in many African nations precipitate the high rates of unemployment.”
In Cameroon, Olivia Mukami, the president and founder of Harambe-Cameroon, a social entrepreneurship organization, insists that Africa needs to prioritize youth unemployment: “African countries are sitting on a powder keg and if they don’t change, it is going to explode”.
The importance of entrepreneurship was underscored at the July 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi, where US President Barack Obama, joined entrepreneurs from over 100 countries and a group of American investors.
Obama lauded entrepreneurship for its promise for Africa saying it is one of the key ingredients in the toolbox to address youth unemployment.
“Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world — it is the spark of prosperity,” Mr Obama told the summit. According to Evans Wadongo, listed by Forbes Africa as one of the most promising young African entrepreneurs, many African governments have not been keen on developing policies that would avert unemployment among the youth in a big way.
“Governments are not doing enough. The private sector is trying, but most goods brought into the African market are from China. This denies the youth the much needed manufacturing jobs, which are more labour intensive,” he says.
Success breeds success
Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Adan Mohammed, however, defends the policies of most African governments, saying that their efforts have been spurring confidence in the continent and are enabling more young people to turn to entrepreneurship.
“Success breeds success — as many entrepreneurs make headway, others get on board. Also, technology-based inventions are pulling entrepreneurs,” says Mr. Mohammed. “The mindset has changed and many young people now think as employers. Many African governments have created opportunities in terms of finance and access to markets.”
Commenting on the increase in foreign investment and economic growth in Africa, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said his government’s efforts to promote an entrepreneurial culture have produced “remarkable results.” For instance, the state-run Youth Venture Capital Fund trains and provides money to young people with good business ideas. The government also helps young entrepreneurs to market their products.”