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Why we love very young entrepreneurs in Africa

As we are about to open applications and embark on the 2017 Anzisha Prize tour in search for a cohort of amazing, successful very young entrepreneurs (VYEs) aged 15 to 22, we reflect on the top five reasons why we love these special entrepreneurs and why we think you should too.

  1. 2016 Grand Prize winner, Randriamananatahina Fabien, of Madagascar is a great example of the first reason – he, like many VYEs, started with what they have. When you follow Tahina’s story, you will understand that the 22 year agri-preneur could not complete school due to personal circumstances. But instead of allowing those circumstances to dictate his life, he used his skills and the access he had to land to farm produce, process it into various finished products such as juice and cheese and finally set up shop to sell his products. It seems in the nature of VYEs who, by virtue of being so young hardly have the financial means, but do not wait for funding to start a business. They start with what they have. Setting a challenge to each person that will hear their story – What do you have in your hand? Start with that! Many times, we have more than we need to start.
  1. Very young entrepreneurs are uninhibited by the fear of failure. This means that they take high risks of course, risk many of us might not afford to take, but that is exactly the beauty is starting very young and that is why Anzisha Prize not only finds, but celebrates and scales their efforts. Jeffery Mulaudzi, 2014 Anzisha finalist and founder of Alexandra Bicycle Tours had everything to fear when he first started. Not only is entrepreneurship not something encouraged in school, he was from one of South Africa’s poorest townships and going the main stream route of getting a formal education and a corporate job was the only guaranteed way out of that situation. However, he, like many VYEs chose to take the road less taken despite what it would mean for their social lives, and even their career prospects. When we hear about their stories now we should be challenged to use the fear we have as fuel for starting and executing our businesses as opposed to letting it paralyse us.
  1. Innovation flows in their blood. They are not burdened by traditions and ways of doing things, they are constantly looking at different, easier and faster ways of doing things. In whatever industry you find them, these VYEs are doing something innovative whilst solving real problems. With water being such a scarce resources, Ludwick Marishane, 2011 Anzisha finalist invented DryBath under Headboy Industries and Vanessa Zommi of Cameroon and 2015 Anzisha finalist repurposed the natural moringa plant and created Afya Tea to assist the residents in her village fight Diabetes. Their stories should challenge us to see innovation as a two sided coin where we are either inventing something new or giving something old a new purpose.
  1. Many businesses or projects started by VYEs are social in nature. One of the chief reasons why Anzisha Prize awards both for-profit and NPOs. VYEs have very big hearts. They want to help, they want to get involved and many times, the best way they know how is by starting a business or project that will assist the beneficiaries. David Mwendele, 2012 Anzisha finalist has built a Foundation that educates and skills young Tanzania children who cannot afford public or private schooling and/or are orphaned, whilst Ifrah Arab, 2016 Anzisha finalist is empowering women in Kenya through her business, Supermom, by enabling them to start their own micro-businesses and supplying them with products on consignment and sales training. These are but two of the many Anzisha Prize Fellows and VYEs that have built businesses that create big impacts in their communities. Just by starting you too could impact lives. If we each impacted at least one person we would see a better Africa in no time.
  1. Finally, they get up when they fall. They understand that falling allows you the time to re-evaluate and re-invent. VYEs have this amazing resilience in the face of actual failure that they almost instantaneously get up and do it again. Daniel Mukisa is one such example. A 2015 Anzisha finalist who co-founded Transporter in Uganda but due to internal misunderstandings has had to leave the company he founded, only to start again with his new company called RideLink which Anzisha Prize’s Youth Entrepreneur Support unit is only happy to assist him grow and scale. Domithila Silayo of Tanzania and 2013 Anzisha finalists also showed this in re-establishing herself after the key ingredient for her soap manufacturing business was no longer available, she started a very successful recycling business. Together with their successes, we should note the scars they received when they fell, celebrate the resilience they have to get up again and be challenged to do it ourselves…at least once.

As the Anzisha team gets into planes, on the road, in different countries and cities all over Africa, we are looking for this special breed of entrepreneurs we call VYEs. They are ambitious and they have already taken the initiative to start. Many can attest to the difference they are already making in their corner of the world. You may know one, or two or if you are lucky enough, you may know a room full of them. If you do, point them our direction, point them to the only Prize in Africa that searches for, celebrates and scales their businesses. Point them to Anzisha Prize on Application open on the 15th of February 2017.

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