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Take young entrepreneurs seriously, say Africa Economic Conference delegates

By Daniel Mpala

Young business leaders who attended the Africa Economic Conference in December, have called on governments to take them seriously and recognise their role as engines of growth.

In a statement by the African Development Bank (AfDB), young African entrepreneurs present at the conference — which was from 2 to 4 December in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt — called on African governments to implement measures such as friendlier tax policies, improve access to finance and boost support for youth-led businesses to create jobs.

Southern Incineration Services (Sisco) co-founder Zimbabwean Terence Mathe, said youths running businesses are “not taken seriously”.

The Africa Economic Conference was held in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt between 2 and 4 December

“Such businesses are seen as part-time, as something young people do while waiting for bigger jobs. We have to take young people more seriously and also revise our tax systems to encourage them,” said Mathe.

Pan African Youth Union interim president Juliana Ratovoson said the organisation wants to see greater involvement in policy making, including the establishment of youth councils at the regional, country and local levels.

“More attention should be paid to youth participation in decision-making at inception, and not just at implementation.

“You have to listen to young people and know what their inputs are in critical decision making, especially as it concerns them,” he added.

The AfDB said recommendations from the youth dialogue were then presented to African ministers at a ministerial roundtable held during the conference.

The AfDB said participants of the roundtable called on African governments to develop innovative small business policies that unlock finance and reduce the risks faced by young business owners.

An example that was given, the AfDB pointed out, is Egypt where the country’s central bank has enforced a regulation that required banks to lend at least 20% of their overall portfolio to youth-owned enterprises.

‘Focus on solution-based policy recommendations’

Social Change Factory founder Sobel Aziz Ngom, who is also a board member of the UN’s Generation Unlimited initiative urged young people to focus on solution-based policy recommendations.

“Beyond just advocacy, we need to focus on workable solutions. Youths should collaborate and cooperate at all levels. Don’t just complain, let your voices be heard by bringing solutions to the table,” added Ngom.

The youth delegates also called for an overhaul of the continent’s education system and the introduction of innovative policies that instill entrepreneurship and business skills from the primary school level.

Monique Ntumngia, the founder of Cameroon-based Green Girls social enterprise encouraged young female entrepreneurs to push to be heard, as nobody will do it for them.

“Youths in Africa are the game changers providing the solutions to Africa’s problems and thereby changing the stereotype narrative Africa has always had,” added Ntumngia.

Featured image: Panelists at youth dialogue on employment challenges and policies at the Africa Economic Conference 

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