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Investing in very young entrepreneurs could unlock peer-to-peer driven employment growth in Africa

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-05-28 16:18

Supporting successful transitions from school and university directly to entrepreneurship could unlock significant employment gains in Africa, according to a new research paper by the Anzisha Prize.

The authors said very young entrepreneurship sits at the intersection of three established policy spaces: education policy, small enterprise policy and youth policy, and often gets lost in between.

They said while there are many initiatives taking place to support the growth of youth entrepreneurship in the African countries, there is very little evidence available to measure progress and determine impact, and even less so when the focus is on very young entrepreneurs.

"Very young entrepreneurs create jobs for other young people across the continent, despite the lack of investment in this age group. They also have less access to credit than older entrepreneurs. New innovations in lending and investment are needed to support the job creation potential of very young entrepreneurs," the research said.

For many very young entrepreneurs, 15-25 years-old, the research said the dominant source of financing remains family and friends.

"While it might hold true that very young entrepreneurs will fail more frequently early in their careers, due to inexperience and lack of resources, each business they start is expected to employ a few individuals," the research said.

Despite innovative financing such as crowdfunding campaigns, microfinancing models, and credit schemes being targeted at youth, most of the funding options have a minimum age requirement of 18 years, which means many very young entrepreneurs are unable to apply.

The research said early exposure to entrepreneurship, and quality entrepreneurship education integrated into existing education systems is essential to foster entrepreneurial aspirations.

The research said there was a need to reimagine secondary education in ways where it is not just seen as a stepping stone to tertiary education but as a platform from which youth can transition directly into work.

It said young people will need to be prepared with the knowledge and skills sought by employers and to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Several policy measures will also be needed to ensure that secondary education supports students to transition effectively into the world of work in general and entrepreneurship in particular.

This includes education policies that push entrepreneurship and business skills development, including promoting skills required to start a business and technical skills in secondary school.

"These interventions at the education policy level will require policy makers to address systemic issues in education systems from multiple angles, including the provision of qualified teachers, effective learning materials, and training for school management," the research said.

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