Study: Young entrepreneurs will bolster peer-to-peer driven employment

27May 2020
The Guardian
Study: Young entrepreneurs will bolster peer-to-peer driven employment

Investments in supporting successful transitions from school and university directly to entrepreneurship could unlock significant employment gains in Africa.

This is according to a new research paper from the Anzisha Prize, which has worked with very young African entrepreneurs for over a decade.

To produce the report, Anzisha Prize commissioned in-depth desk-top reviews and new field research by leading academics and held workshops with key stakeholders across the continent over more than a year.

“We really wanted to respond to this lack of data around the questions we were dealing with in a way that could credibly influence policy,” says Anzisha Prize executive director Josh Adler.

Adler elaborates: “In our most recent analysis, just 77 of our 122 Anzisha Fellows had created over 2,000 dignified work opportunities and 56 per cent of those jobs were for young people under 25. In addition, three of our Fellows have placed a total of 825 people in jobs – 60 per cent of them being under 25. We wanted more evidence to support what we were seeing in our programme, so commissioned all this research activity.”

The Very Young Entrepreneur Scenario research project kicked off in late 2018 with a green paper and a series of participatory workshops to explore what the future might hold for Very Young (15 to 25 year-old) Entrepreneurs in Africa.

Dozens of organisations participated over several months, with clear recommendations emerging for five key stakeholder groups – educators, parents, investors, incubators and policy makers. Most interestingly, a pattern emerged around who the most important yet poorly served stakeholder group is: and it was parents.

“We are hoping that this research will lead to far more organisations that are trying to tackle employment and education in Africa focusing their energies on parents,” notes Adler, adding: “We see parents as the forgotten stakeholder of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The report is careful not to paint youth entrepreneurship as a panacea. Rather, very young entrepreneurship and successful transitions from school to entrepreneurship are under-invested so significant gains could be realised if that share of wallet was increased.

It also provides an important counter perspective on a commonly held view that older entrepreneurs are more successful and more impactful.

“Through the Anzisha Prize, we have observed that young entrepreneurs are more likely to hire other young people,” Peter Materu, Mastercard Foundation chief programme officer, meanwhile says. The foundation threw its weight behind the Anzisha Prize right from the latter’s inception.

“Now, we have evidence that builds the case for supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship at a very young age. This has helped us better understand how to do that,” notes Materu.

He adds: “Entrepreneurship, especially at such young ages, is certainly not for everyone. But this report is shaping a narrative that positions young people as economic change agents.”

Key insights that stand out from the research process underpinning Anzisha’s scenario work include that 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.

Secondly, while there are many initiatives taking place to support the growth of youth entrepreneurship in 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.

Thirdly, very young entrepreneurs create jobs for other young people across the continent, despite the lack of investment in this age group.

Fourthly, very young entrepreneurs have less access to credit than older ones. New innovations in lending and investment are needed to support the job creation potential of very young entrepreneurs.

Fifthly, for many very young entrepreneurs, the dominant source of financing remains family and friends.

And sixthly and lastly, early exposure to entrepreneurship and quality entrepreneurship education integrated into existing education systems are essential in fostering entrepreneurial aspirations.

The Anzisha Prize seeks to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job-generative entrepreneurs across the African continent.

This is done through testing, implementing and sharing models for identifying, developing and connecting high potential, very young entrepreneurs (15 to 22 years old) and their parents and teachers.

These efforts are meant to ensure the ecosystem’s collective success in creating a pipeline of entrepreneurs with the capabilities for scale.

The Anzisha Prize is a partnership between the African Leadership Academy (ALA) and the Mastercard Foundation.

For its part, ALA is determined to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of entrepreneurial leaders who will work together to achieve extraordinary social impact.

Each year, ALA brings together the most promising young leaders from all 54 African nations for a pre-university programme in South Africa with a focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and African studies.

The academy continues to cultivate these leaders throughout their lives, at university and beyond, by providing on-going leadership and entrepreneurial training and connecting them to high-impact networks of people and capital that can catalyse large-scale change.

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