Africa is a continent of hope. Its youth are at the centre of the renaissance and they are the fastest growing demographic with Africa’s population expected to more than double by 2050 to 2.4 billion.
The youth in Africa are ambitious, most becoming economically active and entrepreneurial out of necessity, and they are demonstrating a wealth of resourcefulness and inventiveness providing a range of enterprises and services.
An African youth, is at least doing something be it in the garden, or at least in a corner of an urban centre.
Despite this ingenuity, most young entrepreneurs have limited opportunities and access to skills development, mentors, social networks, and finances that could escalate their business enterprises.
Several have learned the power of telecommunication technology and social media and are growing their businesses on this front, many are still struggling but have a high potential given increased access to financial services and markets, business connections, education, training and exposure, mentorship and support systems for networking that unlock their full potential.
According to the 2021 findings contained in the Uganda National Labour Force Survey, at least 41 percent of youth, which represents 9.3 million aged between 18 and 30 years are not engaged in any productive activity.
The findings compiled by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), indicate that 9.3 million youth are neither in education, employment, or receiving training.
Youth unemployment remains a serious challenge to Uganda, which has forced the government and other stakeholders to concede that the level of the country’s growth is not matching up with job creation.
It is being recognized that Uganda needs to utilise a different set of capital to grow its entrepreneurs to a competitive level on a global dimension. In seeking to do so, it is recognized that collaboration and professionalism are two important ingredients to building an entrepreneurial culture and base that can facilitate entry, survival, and further innovativeness of young entrepreneurs in business.
It is therefore imperative that a dynamic ecosystem of actors and resources that further business incubation, facilitate access to capital and business development services, strengthen mentorship, networking, and exposure as well as peer-to-peer support are explored, implemented, and supported sustainably.
The focus of such actions is to ensure that the mushrooming young enterprises’ mortality is reduced and they are spurred to achieve their considerable potential in speeding inclusive economic growth and facilitating better livelihoods and poverty reduction.
In a bid to shift from looking at the challenges, especially unemployment as obstacles, the youth are turning them into opportunities for them to create value not only for themselves but also for other members of the community, a project dubbed Ebizibu Bugagga (problems are wealth) came in handy.
This is a one-year pilot project aimed at addressing social and environmental issues by creating massive sensitisation, skilling, and support for Ugandan youths through building sustainable businesses.
The project is based on the concept of social business as coined by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Professor Muhammad Yunus.
Mr Daniel Ayebare, the project manager of Ebbizibu Bugagga, says this project cuts a fine balance between the traditional businesses which are profit-oriented and the not-for-profit businesses which are impact related.
“Social business is about you focusing on solving a social challenge but with a business model,” he says.
Mr Ayebare says instead of dealing with a social issue based on donations and handouts, one can create a business model that makes a solution affordable by the members of the community or the target group and even able to generate income to be able to sustain the solution in terms of financial sustainability.
One of the key principles is that the profit you make as an investor instead of spending it all, one is advised to reinvest a portion of it to improve your solution or product such that you can serve more people or even offer better services to the communities you are targeting.
Ebbizibu Bugagga project targets youth both at school and out of school.
“At school, we are looking at the university and secondary school level, then the out-of-school youth can be those that have finished their education but are unemployed or those who even dropped out of school but working under community-based organisations,” Mr Ayebare says.
Under social business design, youth from different universities formed groups of five members and presented their social business ideas to a panel of judges at Kampala International University.
For any business idea to be considered successful, the participants needed to understand the problem in the community, be able to formulate a solution or intervention, clearly explain the financial sustainability plan as well as understand the environment in which they want to operate.
Other considerations include understanding challenges on the way, survival of the business, members’ participation, organisational structure, and effectiveness of the presentation.
Five students from Nkumba university formed a group called Greenland Initiative and identified waste management as a social problem at Kasenyi Landing Site.
Kasenyi Landing site is one of the major landing sites on the shore of Lake Victoria.
The idea, according to the group members is formed as a result of people surrounding the landing site who litter garbage and other wastes unorderly leading to diseases, water contamination, and environmental destruction among others.
The group presented a solution of purposefully collecting the wastes littered around the landing site and make a business out of them by teaching the local people how to recycle the bottles, make charcoal briquettes, and produce manure and fish snares. This in turn provides employment opportunities and poverty reduction among the local people.
By selling the products at affordable prices to appeal to many local people to purchase them or opt for them, involve a big number of the youth in the collection of the wastes littered at the landing site to get simple employment and build the business and make different products from different materials like manure, charcoal briquettes are some of the financial sustainability plans presented by the group.
Limited financial access
Youth With a Vision Africa is another students group from Makerere University that presented a social business idea about limited financial access to the youth.
According to the group’s leader Kiiza Joshua Aliganyira, many youth today can hardly access financial services given that they lack collateral security and most of them do not have a reliable source of income, which makes it difficult for them to get loans from banks or other financial institutions to support their businesses.
As a solution to the social problem, the group proposes to offer ordinary savings and loans at very low-interest rates to all the youth that subscribe to the organisation.
“We shall also give interest to people who do fixed savings with us to encourage nonmembers to join the organisation,” Mr Aliganyira says in a presentation.
On the financial sustainability plan, the group plans to charge new entrants membership fees to help in day-to-day operations.
The small interest rate from the fixed savings will enable the group to get some profits to keep the organisation running.
The group also plans to sell shares which can help maintain permanent assets because they can only be transferred upon the exit of a member but not liquidated.
The Pearl Renaissance Initiative is another group of students from Makerere University that presented about dealing with early childhood development and adolescent intervention. The main objective is to raise education support for children between 0-16 years through selling handwork made by these children.
This results from the increasing number of street children in Kampala who have made begging full-time job.
“It is absurd that these formative years of children are wasted yet it is the opportune time to grow their cognitive abilities and be able to become resourceful citizens. A country whose young people cannot access education is a country without a future indeed,” Aine Peter, the group leader said during the presentation.
As a solution, the group plans to open up a window in the film industry to absorb children that are talented into the on-job and apprenticeship model for their skilling.
Mr Ayebare says through their presentations, the youth are sending a message that they are seeing more opportunities because the problems and challenges are actually what they live with.
“So giving them a mindset of seeing those challenges as opportunities to create value for themselves in terms of businesses has opened their thinking of how they perceive the world,” he says.
Many youth, according to Mr Ayebare, have been looking into having their future dependant on employment, and with this project, they are challenged to reimagine themselves as job creators and entrepreneurs instead of just looking forward to being employed.
“The business ideas have been very creative because Ideally when you go for a pitch, the normal things that usually come out are we want to do this business, this is the profit we intend to make from the business and this is how we intend to run it but now the element of putting the social impact of business first is a winner right now. It is something new and it has to get them thinking that my business must be the solution to the social problem, then profit. We have organisations that mind about profit but don’t care about the social impact of their business,” he adds.
Mr Ayebare adds that they want to create a family of social business entrepreneurs through the networks that they have provided.
“We are providing mentorship, building relationships with them such that we can be able to connect them to business mentors to facilitate them in growing their potential,” he adds.
At a glance
The business ideas have been very creative because Ideally when you go for a pitch, the normal things that usually come out are we want to do this business, this is the profit we intend to make from the business and this is how we intend to run it but now the element of putting the social impact of business first is a winner right now.
It is something new and it has to get them thinking that my business must be the solution to the social problem, then profit. We have organisations that mind about profit but don’t care about the social impact of their business.