By: Dolapo Adeyanju
The over-dependence of African youths on formal employment has become quite alarming, given the declining job opportunity in the formal sector. Thus, meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 8 on creating sustainable employment for young people and promoting youth entrepreneurship have become top policy issues in many African countries.
In the light of recent global economic crisis, African leaders have charted a direction to minimize this employment dependency on the formal sector, leading to a mounting political commitment to support young innovators across Africa in Tech, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Health, etc. These commitments are reflected in several initiatives such as the African Youth Charter (AYC) and Youth Decade Plan of Action.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some government initiatives which supports young entrepreneurs in selected African countries.
The Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation (YEI) Trust Fund
Launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 2017 under the auspices of Jobs for Youth in Africa, the YEI Trust Fund seeks to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem for young Africans. The aim of the Trust Fund is to finance incubator programmes, ensure access to finance and foster the development of innovative start-ups created and managed by young African men and women. To accomplish this, the Fund finances an annual Challenge Prize which awards the best 20 SMEs or start-ups founded and run by young Africans. In addition to this, it connects young people to development partners for financial support.
Youth Enterprise Development Strategy (YEDS) – South Africa
YEDS was initiated by the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry in 2013 with the aim of enhancing youth entrepreneurship, accelerating the growth of youth-owned enterprises which are capable of contributing to the country’s GDP, as well as facilitating youth self-employment and innovation. YEDS implements a number of support schemes which fosters business growth and income generation among young entrepreneurs. Specifically, the scheme provides training, mentorship, infrastructural, institutional, administrative, and financial support for young entrepreneurs in South Africa.
Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin)
Established in 2011, YouWin is one of the government initiatives to promote youth entrepreneurship, job creation and wealth generation through enterprise education in Nigeria. The programme specifically targets young people who are talented, creative and have innovative business ideas. The aim of the programme is to support young entrepreneurs to develop and execute innovative business ideas which could lead to job creation. Selected youths are provided with financial support to kick-start their enterprise and exposed to various platforms where they can showcase their business acumen, skills and aspirations to both foreign and local investors and mentors.
Tunisia Start-up Act
As a result of a bottom-up initiative to foster entrepreneurship, the Tunisia start-up Act was passed in April 2018 to provide additional grants and incentives such as tax exemptions and salary compensation for start-up founders. In addition, the Act allows both private and public sector employees up to a year off their jobs to launch and run their personal businesses with the right to return to the job. According to the World Bank, some of the notable accomplishment of the Act include: decentralizing service delivery; employing a disproportionately large share of youth, women and disabled individuals who were previously excluded from the labour market; and providing higher quality jobs for young people.
Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) – Uganda
Funded under a tri-partite agreement between the Government of Uganda, Argidius Foundation, and Accenture and Enterprise Uganda, the YEP was launched in 2019 to provide 1700 young highly innovative entrepreneurs in Uganda with both access to credit facilities and non-financial support. The ultimate goal of the programme is to help young entrepreneurs to increase their income and become employers of labour.
Senegal Start-up Act
Taking a cue from their Northern-African counterpart, the Senegal Start-up Act was passed in December 2019 to support and encourage entrepreneurs as well as promote the growth of digital technology in West Africa. It was launched in line with the Digital Senegal 2025 strategy which aims to promote innovation that can have a ripple effect on the national economy. The Act seeks to create favourable legal and governance framework for start-ups so as to ease business registration and ensure smooth operation of enterprises. The policy seeks to provide incentives for start-up founders and a Resource Centre which cater solely for business owners.
Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) – Kenya
Introduced in 2016, the YEDF is a state corporation under the Kenyan Ministry of Public Service, Gender and Youth Affairs which strategically focuses on enterprise development as a key to increase economic opportunities for Kenyan youths and transform young job seekers into employers of labour. The major mandate of the Fund includes: providing loans and market support to youth-owned enterprises; facilitating linkages of youth enterprises with large establishments for support; and providing business development services such as training and mentorship to youth-owned enterprises (Read more on www.youthfund.go.ke).
Featured image: ALA students at the 2020 ALA Enteprise Festival (Photo Credit: Mfundo Mbanze)