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Urban Youth: A Great Source of Untapped Growth

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world’s growing urbanization means that a whole generation of youth will have a dramatically different life than their parents. The world’s 3.3 billion urbanites now outnumber rural residents for the first time (UNFPA’s State of the World Population 2007 Report). And the vast majority live in slums or periurban areas, places of sprawl, where public services are poor and housing conditions unhealthy. Most young people working in the urban informal sector live in slum areas: for example, 75 per cent in Benin in Africa, and 90 per cent in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad and Ethiopia. Most of this work is just bare survival work: according to the International Labour Organization, approximately 85 per cent of all new employment falls into this category.

Getting youth into quality work and earning more than enough simply to survive is critical to building a healthy society. Young people are bombarded every day with good and bad influences, and as UNFPA found in its Youth Supplement: Growing Up Urban, “the interactions with the urban environment can have an intense impact on the socialization of young people, exposing them to a multitude of influences as they develop, experiment, question, and assume roles in their societies.”

It is predicted that over the next 10 years, 1.2 billion youths will enter the working-age population (UNFPA). But youth unemployment is a huge problem around the world. Unemployed young people make up almost half (43.7 per cent) of the world’s total unemployed (UNFPA). Young people aged 15 to 19 are more than three times as likely to be unemployed as adults. Young people are the future, a resource no society can afford to waste. If their innate energy and enthusiasm is tapped, countries can see significant economic growth.

There are youth entrepreneurs who are defying the gloom and coming up with great business ideas. Five finalists for BBC Swahili’s regional entrepreneur competition – Faidika na BBC (Prosper with the BBC) – offer inspiration for youth across the South. Finalists from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda were selected for their bright schemes.

The overall winner was 24-year-old Burundian student Ashura Kisesa for a plan to build commercial public toilets in the cities and towns of East and Central Africa. Ashura, who entered but failed to reach the Faidika na BBC finals last year, has 12 brothers and sisters and is studying for a degree in agronomy at Burundi University.

“I am very happy to win the top prize in this competition,” she told the BBC. “The lack of public toilets throughout East and Central Africa is a major problem that needs to be addressed and I hope to make a difference with my business idea. My whole family wanted me to win and they really supported me which makes me especially proud. I cannot wait to get started with my business.”

On June 26 in Kampala, Uganda, Kisesa was awarded US $5,000 to put towards her business.

Kenyan national winner, 22-year-old Witness Omoga from Kakamega, wants to make identity cards for schools. Right now he works as a volunteer at his uncle’s photo studio, and hopes to get into Makerere University to pursue a degree in computer science. “I am very excited,” he said to the BBC. “I have never been number one in my life, but now I have emerged first in this competition.”

The Rwandan winner is a pioneer in the growing field of biomass energy production. A 17-year-old student from Kigali, Rangira Aime Frederick, impressed the panel of judges with his idea to turn domestic waste into energy. The national winner for Tanzania is a private tutor from Dar es Salaam, Apolinary Joseph Laksh. A business education tutor, 23-year-old Apolinary’s idea is to produce charcoal from recycled materials to offer people in rural areas sustainable and affordable cooking fuel.

Ugandan finalist, 23-year-old Dereick Kajukano, is in his last year at Kampala International University doing a degree in business administration. Dereick’s business idea is to make bags out of plastic trash. He was inspired by last year’s Faidika na BBC winner, David Ssegawa from Uganda: “When I heard him defend his proposal on air, I said to myself, why don’t I do it as well. That’s when it all started, and here I am.”

Resources

  • 2008 Global Youth Enterprise Conference: Designed as a participatory learning event, this conference aims to support youth enterprise and entrepreneurship programs and policies achieve greater effectiveness around the world.
    Website: www.youthenterpriseconference.org
  • KickStart is a South African project aimed at inculcating a culture of entrepreneurship among young people between the ages of 18 and 35, by promoting business awareness through training, providing grants as start-up capital and providing mentorship and assistance during the setting up phase of the business.
    Website: http://www.sabkickstart.co.za/
  • iDISC – the infoDev Incubator Support Center – is a virtual networking and knowledge-sharing platform for incubators and technology parks leveraging ICT to facilitate entrepreneurship and new business creation in developing countries.
    Website: http://www.idisc.net/en/Index.html
  • Climate Capital Network: this company offers strategic advice, intelligence and assistance with fundraising for low-carbon solutions around the world. They have 2,000 investors looking for projects to invest in.
    Website: http://www.climatecapital.net/
  • Global Entrepreneurship Week: the website for this event in November has many opportunities for youth entrepreneurs to connect with each other through social networking websites.
    Website: http://unleashingideas.org/welcome

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African Youth Want to do Business in Fast-growing Economy

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Africa’s growing economy is meeting head-on an optimistic young population keen to start businesses. At least that is what a new poll of African youth says, finding that one in five Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 without a current business wants to start one in the next 12 months.

The Gallup surveys (www.gallup.com) of 27 African countries and areas also found young women were just as keen as young men to start a business.

Throughout the decade of the 2000s, Africa experienced an average economic growth rate of 5.4 percent (World Bank) – a big gain from the poor growth rates of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The turnaround in Africa’s economic growth prospects was the product of a number of trends and factors. One has been better policies and easier trade. Other factors include rising tourism, a growing service sector, rising commodity prices, greater demand for African exports in emerging economies and rapidly improving communications: the surge in mobile phone usage during the last five years has surprised many. Africans are also avid spenders on goods and services, spending US $860 billion on them in 2008, more than India’s US $635 billion or Russia’s US $821 billion (Economic Report on Africa 2011).

The African Development Bank predicts Africa’s growth rate for 2011 will decline to 3.7 percent from 2010’s 4.9 percent, largely as a result of turmoil in North Africa. East Africa is projected to grow the fastest this year at 6.7 percent, with West Africa close behind at 5.9 percent.

Africa as a continent collectively had a gross domestic product in 2009 of US $1.6 trillion: equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s. The continent is considered among the fastest-expanding economic regions in the world (McKinsey & Company).

In fact, while economic prospects are grim in many developed countries, Africa joined Asia as the only continents to grow during this recession.

But major problems still confront the continent, among them youth unemployment. Those between 15 and 24 make up more than 60 percent of the continent’s population and are 45 percent of the total labor force (African Economic Outlook). Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a youth explosion, with the proportion of youth there to rise to 75 percent of the population by 2015. Demographers forecast this rising youth trend will not stop for the next 20 years.

Getting these youth actively engaged in the economy and society is a major challenge for the continent. Already, 133 million African youth are illiterate. They have few skills and are marginalised from more productive sectors of the economy.

Even those with an education find their skills often don’t match the needs of the labor market. In sub-Saharan Africa, youth unemployment is believed to be 20 percent.

So even with better economic prospects and growing economies and incomes, youth unemployment looms large.

The Economic Report on Africa 2011 (www.uneca.org/era2011/) finds the “persistent high youth unemployment rate is a cause of concern and a potential source of political instability.” Job creation is still not adequate: “The growth rates are still below the levels needed to make a significant impact on unemployment and poverty reduction.”

While Africa will experience higher growth in 2011, for youth it is looking like a “jobless recovery,” according to the report. Overseas investors are mostly throwing their money at the resource sector, which doesn’t create many jobs in the economy.

But for young Africans looking to start a business, the opportunities are there in sectors such as retailing, telecommunications, banking, infrastructure-related industries, resource-related businesses, and all along the agricultural value chain.

The booming communications industry has added 316 million new subscribers since 2000, for example. And all those people now connected need new services.

And once a business is up and running, it is possible to make higher profits in Africa than on other continents, according to the UN. Africa leads the emerging market economies for returns for businesses. This is because competition isn’t as intense and there is still plenty of built-up consumer demand that needs to be met.

All of this means young people willing to start a business and put in the hard work, will have a better chance of reaping the rewards.

Resources

1) iHub Nairobi: iHub Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. Website: http://ihub.co.ke/pages/home.php

2) The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge by Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble: On how businesses need to follow through with execution if they really want to innovate. Website: http://hbr.org/product/baynote/an/13219-HBK-ENG?referral=00505&cm_sp=baynote-_-featured_products-_-13219-HBK-ENG

3) “The Globe: Cracking the Next Growth Market: Africa” by Mutsa Chironga et al, Harvard Business Review. Website: http://hbr.org/2011/05/the-globe-cracking-the-next-growth-market-africa/ar/1

4) 2011 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference: This 5th anniversary conference will provide a learning platform for the world’s leading funders, practitioners, technical assistance providers, policy makers, and academics working to increase and improve economic opportunities for young people. Join 400 professionals from over 60 countries to share lessons learned, promising practices, and innovative ideas through technical workshops, engaging plenary sessions, and interactive networking. The result? Higher-impact programming, breakthrough solutions, and proven approaches. This year’s theme, Breakthroughs, reflects the focus on the innovative ideas, proven practices, and visionary insights that are taking this emerging field to new heights. Website: http://www.youtheconomicopportunities.org/

5) Dutch Design in Development: DDiD is the agency for fair design, sustainable production and fair trade. They work with Dutch importers and designers and connect them to local producers in developing countries and emerging markets. Together products are made that are both profitable and socially and environmentally sustainable. Website: http://www.ddid.nl/english/index.html

6) Francophone Africa Hackathon: Taking place on 24 September 2011, a ‘hackathon’ to develop mobile phone applications will take place for Francophone Africans. Website: http://www.mobilehackaf.com/

By 2012, Southern Innovator had completed its global reader impact study.

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Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

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Youth Surge in the South: A Great Business Opportunity

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world’s youth population (those between the ages of 12 and 24) has now reached a historical high of 1.5 billion – 1.3 billion of whom are in developing countries (World Development Report 2007). Nearly half of the world’s unemployed are youth, and the Middle East and North Africa alone must create 100 million jobs by 2020 to meet demand for work.

Some 130 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 cannot read or write. This enormous cohort of talent and energy in many countries of the South goes untapped. Many youths lack access to quality employment and education opportunities. Yet knowledge of business could make the difference between success and failure for these young people, especially when they come from poor families with few choices. Business is also a great way to help harder-to-reach young people such as child soldiers, young girls, youth affected by HIV/AIDS, gang members, and orphans.

“The youth bulge is happening and it is an enormous opportunity or an enormous challenge: how are all these young people going to have productive and valuable livelihoods and contribute to their communities?,” said Fiona Macauley, founder and president of US-based consulting firm working with entrepreneurs, Making Cents International. “Policy makers are only just realizing they need a change of perspective on health issues, issues of poverty, the education system – all of it needs to respond.”

Micro-entrepreneurship, where risk is low and the amount invested small, offers the most realistic route into business for youth in countries where more formal opportunities are absent. While concepts like micro-credit and social lending have taken off, youth have not received the attention they deserve, according to Macauley. She has also found financial services need to change to encourage youth to save, while also opening up to give them access to credit for micro-entrepreneurship.

To address this problem, Making Cents is organizing a Youth Microenterprise Conference on September 1-12, 2007 in Washington D.C. in order to start building the links and networks between groups working with youth businesses, and to build a global movement for youth economic development. It will tackle three themes: the role of youth, sector strategies, and building partnerships.

“It is important that entrepreneurship is mainstreamed into the school system,” continues Macauley. ”That youth are getting good skills the private sector are looking for: how to budget, costing and pricing, developing entrepreneurial mind sets, problem solving, leading groups, researching, how to be problem solvers. If we can get this into the high school and the elementary school level, imagine how different the workforce would be?”

Other initiatives that are focusing on youth entrepreneurship:

South African Breweries Limited has been providing seed capital to youth businesses run by 18 to 35 year olds through its KickStart program. Successful youth enterprises to come out of the program have included Golden Sunset Fresh Produce, started by 27-year-old Alwyn Jepha to help pay for his law school studies. Starting on a small scale producing vegetables and fruit, the business has grown substantially, making in a month what it once made in a year. The KickStart grant enabled Jepha to buy irrigation equipment and to scale up his operations. At Zanopt, Khetla Leqola has been producing afro-centric optical frame styles, meeting a market need not being met by the global brands. KickStart enabled Leqola to buy the equipment required to produce the frames and run his office.

The Barbados Youth Business Trust has an excellent web portal for youth, with practical tips on starting a youth business and good examples of young people actually doing it. At 29, youth entrepreneur Ailene Harrison-Malcolm found herself unemployed. She had long noticed the lack of clothing for full-bodied women in Barbados, and decided to open her own store, Full Elegance Boutique in 2002. She was able to tap into a mentoring scheme run by the government’s Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme toget a loan. It is this kind of joined up support that youth need.

Resources

  • World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation
  • World Bank’s Youthink! Website for youth: Click here
  • The Entrepreneurial League System: Professor Thomas S. Lyons and Gregg A. Lichtenstein have a established an entrepreneurial mentor scheme based on the baseball farm team concept targeting poor communities. Read more about this at Collaborative Strategies.
  • Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE): A non-profit organization in 40 countries, it organizes students on university campuses to develop community outreach projects that achieve their five goals: market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and business ethics.
  • Young Americas Business Trust; Latin America: Acts as a ‘catalyst for young entrepreneur development in the Americas through business skills training, partnerships, leadership and technology.’
  • Youth Business International (UK): An international organization providing disadvantaged youth with business mentoring and funds. They helped 2,000 youth in 2006.
  • UN Youth Employment Gateway: Click here

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Turning African Youth on to Technology

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

An African NGO believes the Internet is the single biggest key to rapid development in Africa – and it is working to connect youth, women and rural populations to the web, and in turn, switch them on to the vast resources stored across the world’s Internet sites.

After initial successes with a youth project and with farmers, Voices of Africa (VOA) (http://www.voicesofafrica.info) is now seeking to scale up its work to fan out across Africa – and take its services to the world’s largest refugee camp, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. 

The youth and technology empowerment NGO has developed a business model to deliver low-cost Internet access and e-resources to Africa’s slums and rural farmers.

VOA argues that “the digital divide, defined by a lack of access to information for a specific population, symbolizes the largest difference between developed and developing countries: the opportunity to obtain and utilize information.”

“The digital divide runs much deeper than hardware and software,” it says. “While equipment is necessary it is not sufficient. The real heart of the digital divide is that those without access to information resources often suffer needlessly while the solutions to their problems are floating in the air.”

But why is the Internet so important?

“The internet puts the choice of content at the fingertips of the user,” explains executive director Crystal Kigoni. “Traditional media is one way communications. Internet is bi-directional.

“Our NGO is completely grassroots. We train the people who train the people. It is an each one, teach one philosophy and is highly effective. We also design our projects to be self-sustainable after one year of successful implementation.”

The philosophy behind Voices of Africa – “Sustainable Development through Information Empowerment” – is to give people the information and resources to take better control of their lives.

Access to the Internet in Africa is patchy and, for the poor, an expensive resource. The penetration of mobile phones in Africa has been spectacular in the past five years. But there are limits to the resources people can afford to access with their phones. Issues abound about data costs, mobile phone networks, and mobile phone capability.

VOA targets youth and women in sub-Saharan Africa through online educational resources offered on their e-learning website (http://elearning.voicesofafrica.info/). The resources have been certified by Nazarene University (http://www.anu.ac.ke), a private university in Nairobi, Kenya.

The e-learning resources include high quality training videos, presentations and screencasts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screencast) – like a movie, it is a digital recording of changes on a computer screen and is used to teach software – to share on the web. The resources are also shared through compact discs (CDs) and iPods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod).

Project coordinator Nick Kungu coordinates the staff working on the pilot Kenyan projects: a Rural Internet Kiosk; a Youth Empowerment Center; and KiberaNet, which launched in August 2011. VOA uses a part-time and volunteer staff of more than 20 Kenyans and four international ‘virtual’ volunteers.

The group is also working with farmers in Kutus, central Kenya, to help them get a better price for their products and introduce sustainable agriculture practices. This is done through online courses so the farmers do not need to travel. It is hoped by doing this they can improve the supply of food for the country.

The Youth Empowerment Center in Webuye constituency of the Western province of Kenya involves a partnership with the government of Kenya to teach computer basics, research and data collection, social media, ICT (information communication technology) for development, social business and community health.

In rural areas, the need for information cannot be overestimated. In the remote countryside, there are few schools with adequate resources and almost no community libraries. The lifesaving knowledge the people require has to date been completely beyond their grasp. As one rural woman in the Western province of Kenya exclaimed to VOA after encountering the resources on the Internet, “It is like being brought from the darkness into the light.”

Another project in development is SlumNet, which seeks to combine the Internet with low-cost devices like tablet computers and netbooks. Its pilot scheme, KiberaNet, launched this month in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya to test the business model. VOA hopes to then expand it to Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is using a business model to bring low-cost Internet access to Africa’s slums that is fully funded by the local communities and the users.

It has identified the key needs of youth in slums that need to be met: a way to access the vast resources available on the Internet; a way to generate income, undertake low-cost learning, and organise for social justice; ways to overcome social, economic and political isolation; a way to access affordable equipment and resources to improve their quality of life in the short-term.

To make it a sustainable business model, the community takes a 60 percent stake in the incorporated entity. Voices of Africa will select six local civil society organisations to take another 10 percent stake in the business. VOA takes 10 percent and the remaining 30 percent will be open to outside investors.

It involves setting up a closed intranet system and Internet access covering the entire Kibera slum, which has an estimated population of 2 million, a majority under the age of 30.

KiberaNet hopes to act as a community hub for socialising, education and generating content. A key part is creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to novices. The business model is about delivering the bandwidth of Internet access and simultaneously generating a sustainable source of income to keep it going. Partners in the business include Promote Africa, Plexus Group and Future Optics Networks.

VOA also has been blogging about its time in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483a16) at their website, www.voicesofafrica.info, and has been developing plans to expand services to the camp, home to over 400,000 refugees from drought and famine in Somalia. The camp was only designed to hold 90,000 people. The chronic food insecurity has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, leaving over 10 million people in need of help.

“There are plenty of resources going in but it is aid business as usual,” claims Kigoni. “You see lots of waste in many areas, and a lack in others that would be extremely beneficial. Hence, why Voices of Africa has come up with the youth technology and empowerment plan that accompanies a general information and communications system, DadaabNet.”

DadaabNet will be a youth-run community Internet service and education service. VOA plans to use a wireless intranet, internal communications systems and low-cost internet access in the refugee camp.

The project is the first of its kind in Dadaab and a first in Kenya, claims VOA, allowing free educational content without needing to access the Internet

The intranet will host free educational videos that can be accessed by mobile phones and computers. The topics covered in the videos include health, nutrition, sanitation and computer training and how to use technology for sustainable development.

The curriculum is also approved by Nazerene University to certificate level.

The system is supervised and would be able to offer resources to other NGOs seeking to provide services to the camp’s residents. The intention is to open up opportunities for education and employment youth who are currently unemployed.

At present the youth in the camp, many of whom have not completed secondary school, get by ‘hustling’ for work, according to VOA. By being left to their own devices, there is a risk they will fall into negative behaviour like crime and drug use or be preyed upon by terrorist organisations operating in the area like al Shabaab, they maintain.

“In our dreams, everyone everywhere in the world can have the opportunity to develop their minds. It is through this creativity that Africa will rise,” concludes Kigoni.

Resources

1) The Impact of Mobile Phones on Profits from Livestock Activities by Roxana Barrantes. Website:http://www.mendeley.com/research/impact-mobile-phones-profits-livestock-activities-evidence-puno-peru-14/

2) 2011 UNHCR Country Operations Profile – Kenya. Website: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483a16

3) Southern Innovator magazine: New global magazine Southern Innovator’s first issue is out now and is about Mobile Phones and Information Technology in the global South. Website:http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Issue-1

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021