How to inspire a New Generation of African Entrepreneurs

Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship

The teachers’ strike is finally over and our children can now resume their classes. This is a step forward to a bright future, we would think. We have always been proud of our  education system but the number of educated and unemployed persons has been on the rise not just in Kenya but also in Africa generally.

Despite being a leading economy in sub-Saharan Africa, with almost 50% of unemployed youth, South Africa has one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the region. Similarly, although Nigeria’s 13% youth unemployment is not well above the regional average, due to the large size of its population (around 170 million), the actual number of unemployed young people is high. On the other hand, small and land-locked Rwanda has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates globally, according to statistics from the World Bank.

This has caused an increase in insecurity. and is really sad, especially, when we get to find out that the criminals are learned individuals that found themselves between a rock and a hard place. There are more ways to earn a living to obey the law of nature instead of resorting to criminal activities.

The school system and even our culture has accustomed us to employment. We grow up knowing that you have to work hard in school if you want to get a job. We should read and get straight ‘A’s if we want to make the cut-off points for good schools or university that give you an upper hand in the job market. This has led to students using the end justifies the means, like cramming. In turn, this has shone a bad light on our education system and the graduates it presents.

Digital Jobs Africa (DJA) is a Rockefeller Foundation initiative that aims to impact 1 million lives in six countries in Africa by catalyzing sustainable ICT-enabled employment opportunities and skills training for high potential but disadvantaged African youth, thereby generating social and economic opportunities for those employed, their families and communities.The initiative is built on the shared recognition that, as Africa’s economic growth continues, the digital economy will have a net positive impact on jobs and income generation, particularly for youth.

One of the findings from a research conducted by the iHub Research and commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation was;-

The Digital Skills Gap
Despite the significant number of youth attending tech training programs and relevant university courses, most employers find that applicants lack the practical skill set necessary for digital jobs. The key skills and experience that were seen to be lacking are presentation and business skills, personal financial management skills and soft skills. Secondly, startups (75 per cent), growth private enterprises (68 per cent) and tech hubs (78 per cent) perceive that it is too expensive to hire qualified experts.

Although tech startups and growth tech enterprises expect practical skill sets necessary for digital jobs from their employees such as business, financial management and soft skills, the scale of digital job creation is currently moderate. In addition, the employability of youth in digital jobs is particularly hindered by a gap between theoretical skills, attained by youth through various programs, and practical skills, sought after by employers.

Currently, tech hubs and training institutes are attempting to bridge this skills gap by redeveloping the education curriculum to include more practical training, creating internship and apprenticeship programs, and facilitating mentorship programs.

There is an urgent need for a fundamental paradigm shift in the way our children are raised and cultured to be, not employees or aspire for office jobs but to be innovators, entrepreneurs and creators of jobs.

Nick Kaoma, Founder of Head Honcho. Named one of Forbes' 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa 2014
Nick Kaoma, Founder of Head Honcho. Named one of Forbes’ 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa 2014

This need not start when the child joins university or leaves and starts job hunting, it needs to start at a very early age with the following tips:-

– Teaching our children how to save money from a tender age like 6 years old.
– Let them earn the money by carrying out extra chores in the house
-Teach them how to use the money well

-Teach them how to invest the money, as a form of saving money
You could take them to some of your investments and allow them to make the investments. This will boost their courage and allow them to take calculated risks.

-Teach them the benefits of thinking big
The children from a tender age and even university students can learn to have big visions and not just limit themselves to employment. Have a vision that will grow and provide for them in the future.

– Teach them about other jobs other than being Doctors, pilots and Engineers.
There are numerous job titles that have come with the digital age e.g software developer, data analyst, Domain/web/network admin, web designer, Social Media manager etc

– Letting them see other job opportunities as good
White collar businesses have been looked at as classy from the colonial times but I think it is time we let the children have a different mindset. There are several millionaires in blue collar jobs like Caleb Karuga, a poultry farmer to state just one venture.

Creation of jobs for the next African Generation
How do we solve this problem of youth unemployment? We need the current generation and the next to venture into entrepreneurship. That is the next frontier. Young people are forming start-up companies of different kinds around innovative products and services like local mobile apps and business that help people in their day to day lives, poultry farming, agricultural farming, public transport, parking, tracking Mpesa transactions etc.

There are many opportunities out there, only if young people and we as parents change our mentality on some of the job opportunities available as well as starting a culture of being job creators and not just employees.

The future of our children begins when they are young. For those in the university, it is not late. They are in the right age to invest, save money or build a business around their invention. They have several options to venture into.

Tech hubs are quickly springing up in every country in Africa and these are the best places for young people to find inspiration. Pay a visit to one of them and witness the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

(image source)

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