Youth entrepreneurship: The inherent frontier in economic prowess

Uhuru Kenyatta and Barack Obama
President Uhuru Kenyatta invites his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama during the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi.

Entrepreneurship has indubitably turned out to be one common term in recent times across the globe, representing a vast and broader economic phenomenon that has changed the world imperceptibly. It has become one of the most dynamic forces in all economies, developed and developing, definitely showing how important entrepreneurs are now from the macro-economic perspective. More than ever, entrepreneurship matters prominently in today’s interdependent, robust, competitive and volatile global economy that no governments might thrive without it.

The very ardent, creative and innovative entrepreneurs have led regional, national and international social and economic growth and development, created new jobs and reliably stood as the last firewall against recessions and catastrophic events that are a result of economic volatility. In fact, with the level of economic growth so far achieved and most importantly yet to be achieved, entrepreneurship stands to play a precedent role in leading progressive business activities and transforming society experiences.

With the robust development of infrastructure across the world making it easy for individuals to travel and connect within the shortest time, access to information is transforming lives and made enthusiastic and ambitious entrepreneurs especially among the youth to step up and embrace this field. It has mitigated in pushing individuals never to settle with what exists rather make it more suitable to use and co-exist with, through adding value.

Bridging the economic gap

Entrepreneurship is a spirit that has overtaken the world mentality of governments for all the countrymen’s challenges and wants to giving those very people to come up with solutions for themselves that have turned out to be business empires. In the final Communiqué of the 2014 G20 Leaders Summit, there was a candid call for enhanced economic growth that could be achieved by the “promotion of competition, entrepreneurship and Innovation”. In addition there was also a call for better strategies to end unemployment among the youth particularly through encouragement of entrepreneurship.

This among other global leaders’ push geared towards supporting entrepreneurship including the US President Barrack Obama’s initiative of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was hosted in Nairobi Kenya on July 2015, indicate how entrepreneurship bridges the gap between where we are today and we are to be economically in the future.

Kenya, which has hosted a series of international business conventions most of which pay attention to innovation and creativity which revolve around entrepreneurship, has been termed as a powerhouse of innovation in the African continent and the world. This is no surprise that it has attracted many of the world’s best known entrepreneurs of our time like the Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates. Nonetheless, much as this is an advantage that we enjoy, the impact of this is yet to be fully felt by the mwananchi so that policy terms to accelerate the business growth become efficient. Firstly, the ventures should be able to solve the majority of population’s perennial challenge of unemployment which squarely affects the youth.

With our growing population, jobs have become less than the people in need of them. Unemployment is a challenge that we have to face head-on if progress is to be noted in the economic growth. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), today one-third of Kenya’s population is between 18 and 34 years old- definitely indicating the tough reality of there being more young people than there are jobs.

Funding youth entrepreneurship 

The percentage of Kenyan workers with a formal job is now 9% down from 13% in the 70’s. Undoubtedly, predicament gets worse by day. World Bank’s Economic Update lately noted that, while 800,000 youths hit the working age annually, only 50,000 new formal modern-wage jobs are created. This is enough evidence to encourage youth entrepreneurship especially with the strong conviction that can even advance and find innovative solutions to realizing the SDGs.

The progress the Kenyan government has made to nurture youth entrepreneurship is commendable and perhaps is one of the reasons why Kenya ranks where it is in economic status. The introduction of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) in 2006 to provide training and seed funding to the young people aiming to start businesses and the passing of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act in 2013, aimed at expanding and improving the country’s system of vocational institutions, which impart practical entrepreneurial skills, are some of those initiatives made.

The Kenyan youth is certainly enlightened today and informed more than ever, thus the Youth Enterprise Fund which is one of the flagship projects of Vision 2030 under the Social pillar can immensely and fruitfully draw them closer to grabbing the opportunities available and actively participate in nation building. More mechanisms ought to be employed to ensure that more youth actively participate in this cause.

Creative entrepreneurship

The discernment by the government on the imminent impact to be brought by entrepreneurship and small businesses development as potential solutions to flagging economic growth gives a promising future. A key finding by Professor David Birch of MIT “The Job Generation Process” publication that was done in 1979 revealed that job creation was not coming from large companies, but small independently owned businesses. Consequently, the formulated government policies should target indirect rather than direct strategies with a greater focus on the role of the small firms to encourage them to grow.

We are in a transition time as a country economically as the government is earnestly working around the clock to open up the infrastructure as a fundamental tool to economic boom. It only becomes more imperative to involve the youth with creative and innovative minds to participate in the establishment of more creative services to the communities thus have the ability to define the anticipated development levels.

Fortunately, here in-country, we have innumerable young entrepreneurs, disruptors and innovators who are impatient to change the face of Kenya in both social and economic terms, cutting across the Real Estates, Tech, Green tech, Manufacturing, Financial services and Agriculture. These are solely major stakes in our GDP and if we are to achieve the double-digit economic growth sooner, then we have to inevitably embrace the best of what the world could offer in terms of structural and techno savvy economic competitiveness.

Our budding entrepreneurs are fascinatingly determined to tackle critical issues, and solving problems like in healthcare and electricity shortages, proffering innovative solutions to waste management and creating virtual and physical communities for noble causes.

We are certainly living in exciting times and the government only needs to keep improving the best political and legal environment to give these fearless, innovative and creative entrepreneurs who are ready to break the glass ceiling to be part of the prime movers of economic development.

Mentorship programmes

At a time when almost all people must be well educated and highly skilled to meet the demands of an increasingly exciting, complex and inequitable world, it is important to understand the opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurial endeavors to produce and scale breakthrough solutions. This journey of entrepreneurship which is not travelled by many has challenges that are never easy to tackle, some of which the government has come in to assist.

A common denominator for all entrepreneurs is the challenge of financing the ventures. It is usually a hurdle tough to cross requiring funding proposals or applications to be written for loans, venture capital, angel investors or even IPOs. Understanding this broader picture of entrepreneurship of being more than the creation of a new business venture rather imagining of new ways to solve problems and creating value, the support for entrepreneurship journeys by the government and other private entities should keep expanding to the learning institutions where the creativity is natured.

That way, we shall mentor our youth early enough, nurture their gifts and creativity and give them the tools to establishing big entrepreneurial ventures that would not only change their lives but those of their communities and the country.

It only remains absurd to claim to be supporting youth entrepreneurship if we do not impart them with the right tools and skills to do that which is endowed in them since they are gold mines, there is much to expect from them. We need educational institutions geared towards the informal sector as well and the Kenyan government’s programs should keep reflecting the current economic reality to avoid economic retardation. Ultimately, it shall be the right path towards achieving economic self-sufficiency and stability.

The writer is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. Email: [email protected]

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