Youth Entrepreneurship for Africa’s Transformation

By Yourcommonwealth.org (Collins Kimaro)

Youth entrepreneurship can help people realise their potential and drive Africa’s transformation, writes Collins Kimaro, a Correspondent from Tanzania.

“What Africa becomes tomorrow depends on how it harnesses the potential of young people today,” said Eric Shitindi, Permanent Secretary of the United Republic of Tanzania, as he officially opened a technical workshop on youth entrepreneurship, organised in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Labour Organisation, and UNCTAD.

Held in Dar es Salaam, the initiative aims to support Commonwealth member states in East Africa to develop national youth entrepreneurship frameworks and polices. Delegations from Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia were present.

For these countries and across the rest of Africa, progress lies with their young people, who dominate the population. This poses both an opportunity and challenge, as young people account for 60% of those unemployed. Furthermore, those who are able to find jobs are mostly under-employed in unstable and poorly paid work.

Why Youth Entrepreneurship?

Globally, entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. The majority of developed economies are driven by Small and Medium Enterprises, often led by young entrepreneurs. Correspondingly, a study of 105 youth employment interventions conducted by the Solutions for Youth Employment Initiative (S4YE) found those that encouraged entrepreneurship generated the largest gains in income.

Another advantage of youth entrepreneurship is that it is an option available to many young people. Formal employment often immediately disqualifies many young people due to its requirements for higher education qualifications and extensive experience. On the other hand, entrepreneurship gives these young people a fighting chance. During the workshop, Charles Ocici from Enterprise Uganda proclaimed that “entrepreneurship is an equaliser; no matter your background, education or family endowment.”

Looking at the capacity of the formal sector, one could claim that entrepreneurship is not only a viable option but a necessity for Africa’s sustainable development. The World Bank estimates that only one-quarter of African youth will be able to find a wage job. Therefore, entrepreneurship is a key avenue to help young people to employ themselves and others.

Supporting Youth Entrepreneurship

To do so, Fulvia Farinelli from UNCTAD argues that we must “view entrepreneurship as a systemic issue and follow a holistic approach.” National policies and strategies are key parts of this in order to create a conducive environment to allow young entrepreneurs to flourish. Sushil Ram from the Commonwealth Secretariat emphasised that “currently there are a large number of initiatives on youth entrepreneurship that are not linked. We need an integrated and coherent policy approach for more effective outcomes.” This workshop laid the foundations for this and benefited from the support of the Tanzanian government, UNCTAD, and the ILO..

There is an African proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Accordingly, the development of these national strategies must be inclusive of all relevant stakeholders. This workshop leveraged the collective impact approach and convened policy-makers, experts and young entrepreneurs themselves. Including young people in the discussion was key to Alvin Laurence, CEO of the Seychelles National Youth Council, who asserted that “we as young people do not want politicians to make decisions for us. We want to make decisions with them.”

The state of youth entrepreneurship in the region is set to be transformed following the workshop as delegations return to work on their national policies and strategies for youth entrepreneurship. It is such collaborative and systematic efforts that will allow entrepreneurship to help young people realise their potential and drive Africa’s transformation.

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3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup

… Want to grow your startup and you don’t know what elements to focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, this article highlights some factors you should consider to grow your business… 

By Azugbene Solomon

Are you taking the right steps to put your ideas into action? How well are you prepared before going into entrepreneurship?

Did you know that only 50 percent of startups survive more than five years? Unfortunately, many startups fail to achieve product-market fit. Without a smart growth strategy in place, startups have no clear roadmap towards long-term success.

Entrepreneurship offers a lot, especially, if you know how to easily get your new business off the ground. However, do you know what it takes to create a business that you believe will serve a need for the public successfully?

The fact is that starting a successful business is not as easy as eating cake. This is a journey you mustn’t start if you don’t have an idea of where you are going.

While you’re anxious to get started, you will realise you’re just another name in a sea of competition. This is why you have to build your brand and develop relationships within and outside the business. This is one of the best ways to gain access to customers and grow your business.

How to grow your startup to the maximum

Do you know how to grow your startup to the maximum? Do you actually know how to keep your company moving forward with smart business expansion principles?

So, how do you start? What elements should you focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, position your startup for sustained success and build a growth strategy that actually works by following these simple steps:

1. Network and connect

Some of the most successful businesses have professional ties with other companies in the industry. By developing a network of professionals, you can turn to you have more resources at your fingertips to grow your business.

Networking allows you to share knowledge and ask questions of like-minded professionals. Also, it creates an environment for opportunities and opens you up to other markets and connections.

  • Attend Networking Events and Trade Shows
    There are often networking events for startups and entrepreneurs that you can attend. You can find out about these events by following organizations on social media, joining professional groups and organizations, and checking regularly at local hotels where such events are often held.
  • Host your own event
    There’s no better way to introduce yourself to the professional world than to host your own networking event. With the use of digital tools like a conference app and social media, inviting and updating guests won’t be much of an issue. During the event, you have the opportunity to showcase what your business has to offer and build lasting connections.

2. Build Awareness

Being known among other businesses is a must, however, you can’t grow your business if potential customers don’t know you exist.

Brand awareness is an imperative and continual part of growing your business. As a business owner, you can effectively leverage social media for brand awareness and sales.

While some of this is done by providing quality service, a lot of building brand awareness will come from your ability to market your business. Two common areas of marketing are traditional and digital:

  • Traditional Marketing
    This is your typical marketing tactics that have been used for years. This includes marketing methods like using business cards, flyers, promotional products, signage, cold calls, commercials, radio broadcasts, and other solutions to spread awareness about your brand.
  • Digital Marketing
    Whether you have a physical business location or you run your show from home having a strong online presence is imperative to building brand awareness. A reliable website, social media accounts, blogs, and compelling content all play a crucial role in your brand’s ability to reach your target audience.

3. Develop Relationships

Relationships building is very important when it comes to entrepreneurship. As a business owner, for your business to grow, you must focus on the core purpose for your success – your customers.

When startups take the time to develop authentic business relationships with their customers, they are put in a position where they can better serve them.

This thus results in long-term relationships and repeat business. But how do you develop a positive relationship with your customers?

  • Learn more about the customer
    The trick to selling your products or services is appealing to the needs, wants, and/or interests of your customers. It is imperative that you not only know who your company can best serve but how you can best do this. Customer satisfaction surveys, interaction through social media, and research can help you to learn about your customer.
  • Provide quality services
    You can’t very well expect to develop strong relationships with your customers if you’re not providing quality service. Customer service should be a huge part of your business strategy to grow. Focus on ways to provide friendly, simplified, and convenient services to your customers. Go above and beyond what is expected to ensure that every encounter they have with your business is a good one.

Conclusion

As tartup, like a little baby, has to be nurtured with utmost care and intuitive outlook.

However, while putting in the effort to your brand and products, it’s also important to take smart steps that’ll make the long-run totally worth it at the end of the tunnel.

Hence, smart up and apply the above effective tips to your startup to watch your brand soar beyond bounds.

Reference
1. 3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup and Take it to the Max by Onaplatterofgold.com

Namibia: My personal reflection on President Lungu’s call to support youth entrepreneurs

By Eng Kumbukilani Phiri

For the past few days I have been restricting myself from commenting on the matter concerning the Presidents call to relevant institutions created to promote youth entrepreneurship to show cause or risk being reshuffled or fired.

Speaking in Kabwe during the Central Province Patriotic Front Conference, President Lungu cautioned against the laissez-faire attitude most institutions mandated to help and support youth entrepreneurs show. The President called for immediate action failure to which he was going to reshuffle or fire some of them.

As a youth entrepreneur, when I listened to the President’s speech, I was filled with joy to the extent that I even shed a tear. For a number of times, I have bemoaned our lack of drive as a country to support local entrepreneurship. Most of the time, we have heard government officials boasting about inviting foreigners to come and invest in Zambia. This has always made me wonder whether Zambians are incapable of being investors in their own country. Most policies have been crafted and designed to attract foreign investors with tax holidays that go for many years, yet, local investors no matter the size of their investment do not enjoy similar incentives. Local investors are made to start paying taxes right from their first day of operations. Similarly, due to this discrimination in policy development that somehow favour foreign investors, even financial institutions in the country tend to be more supportive to foreign investors than to the local ones. I have seen some foreigners come with nothing, pick up a business idea locally, go to financial institutions and get funded, yet many locals have brilliant ideas which are never operationalized and end up going to the grave with the owners. It is just appalling.

Coming back to the Presidents call for support to youth entrepreneurs, I was reluctant to comment on this matter due to my own personal experiences as a local entrepreneur. In 2017, I had the worst experience of my life as a local businessman. To date, I am still shocked and traumatized at what I went through. To make matters worse, its now almost two years since that fateful day when our hope and investment got shattered by our fellow Zambians, but still to date no progress has been made for us to recover anything and probably allow us to invest in any of our many ideas that we have.

Prior to 2017, I had managed to build a very thriving business founding and managing three companies. One was involved in construction and real estate development, the other was involved in import and wholesaling of foreign products, and the last one was formed as a diversification into timber processing and export. The diversification into timber processing and export is what brought all the misery in my business life. Some of you may still remember the lamentations and pleas I made to see to it that at least, those of us who had invested genuinely and were operating within the law were given a fair treatment and if anything supported to build our businesses according to what the government wanted at the time. To cut the long story short, my company Green Lake Zambia Limited applied and was given a concession licence to harvest and process timber in Isoka. This was after meeting all the requirements that also included an Environmental Project Brief and consent from both the Chief and the local council. When the Minister addressed us and told us that no timber was going to leave Zambia unless it was at least processed into four corners, my company obliged and went further to acquire equipment to process the timber. However, after harvesting and processing the timber and just before getting an export permit for our first consignment, government banned the harvest and trade in Mukula and all export of timber unless in finished product form. This all happened when we had already made a huge investment in millions of Kwacha that left our bank account dry. The decision to ban harvesting and trade in Mukula could perhaps be justified given the rampant illegal dealings at the time. However, special consideration should have been put in place to secure investments for legal and genuine licence holding companies. This was never done and companies like ours suffered major losses and continue to suffer to date.

When the ban was effected, there was no prior communication to the concession licence holders as required by law. To our surprise we just saw security wings coming to our processing site and saying there was a ban on harvesting and processing of timber. They even arrested four of my innocent workers despite showing them that we were not operating illegally.

At the time all this was happening, I was abroad on a business trip which I had to abort and flew to Isoka via Mbeya in Tanzania. After four days in cells and after being denied bond, we finally managed to secure bail from the court for our four workers. Thanks to the three brave Isoka residents who came to our help despite being threatened by some local officials there. The case went on for 17 months, but the people who arrested my workers failed to prosecute the case until the magistrate decided to discontinue it. During this whole time, my workers were driving from Lusaka to Isoka every month spending thousands of Kwacha to go and appear in court just for a mention. I tried everything I could to seek answers and help from all the officials I knew. However, nobody seemed to have any answers or means to help.

What makes me cry to date is that, despite eventually understanding that we were victims of circumstances, nobody seemed bothered about our predicament. Worse still, nobody seemed bothered that a fellow Zambian had lost a huge investment that could be used to invest in other areas and create employment for the many unemployed Zambians especially the youths.

During the time when all this was happening, we were treated like common criminals. The security wings refused to look at our documentation and took our timber and dumped it at the DCs office together with timber from illegal operators. Surprisingly, it was not long before ZAFFICO came with Chinese buyers to load some of the timber that was dumped at the DCs office. Very shocking indeed. The remaining timber still rots at the DCs office having gone through many seasons of rains and hot weather eventually losing all the market value and can only be good for firewood at the moment.

When It became very clear to me that there was no one who was going to help me, I started panicking and ended up writing an open letter to President Edgar Chagwa Lungu that appeared as a feature story in the Daily Nation of the 4th of October, 2017 and was widely circulated among many online news platforms. I received calls from both Zambians and foreigners from all over the world. Many Zambians in the diaspora were very concerned about how I was treated, many feared that the same thing would happen to them if they decided to bring their hard-earned money to invest in the county. The truth is that, I came back to Zambia as an investor only that I was not a foreigner as Zambia is my own country.

I called for the Presidents help because I had tried to seek answers and solutions from the government officers, Directors, Permanent Secretaries, Ministers, etc., but none seemed to have any. To me it was clear that only the President being the most powerful man in the country would help me. Unfortunately, maybe due to his busy schedule, the President may not have seen my open letter to him as I never got any feedback from him or those around him. Maybe the people who were supposed to show him the open letter never bothered because it was a Zambian investor crying for help and not a foreigner. For all I know, President Lungu is a very caring leader who would have called me or instructed those mandated to deal with such issues to quickly find a solution for us. He just recently called a young artist who had made a portrait of him and offered to buy her paintings, which clearly shows that he very much cares about the talent and plight of the youths and I can never claim to be an exception. Sadly, to date our issue has remained unresolved and nothing from our investment has been recovered.

Now that the President has spoken and warned those that are not helping youth entrepreneurs like myself, my hope has been ignited that perhaps our issue will now be looked at with the seriousness it deserves.

Many of you may be wondering why we have not gone to court as a company. Firstly, when this thing happened, we had invested all our money in the business and remained with nothing to pay any lawyer. Secondly, four of our workers were still appearing in court. We wanted the case to be resolved first before we could think of anything else. Thirdly, I have so much trust and hope in our President as a father of the nation. I was so sure that after writing that open letter to him, once he got wind of it, a solution was going to be found. This is the more reason I am writing this article with confidence that at least now that he has made a stance, perhaps he will get to read this and help us find a solution. To be honest, we have brilliant ideas that we would like to implement and employee many more Zambians than the over a hundred our company has now.

My principle is that, instead of just being critical of government to provide all of us with employment, I decided to be creative and innovative enough to create employment for myself and other youths to supplement government effort.

Finally, I am still pleading with President Lungu to consider meeting some of us from the youths who have made a choice to venture into entrepreneurship. Your Excellency, any help you will render to the youths now will stand out as your legacy when you finally decide to retire one day.

God bless

Source Lusaka Times

How a hashtag #ThisIsMyHustle, paved way for young Nigerians to make good returns in business

BY PULSE NIGERIA

A small network of entrepreneurs beat their own expectations after a hashtag #ThisIsMyHustle, linked them with profitable connections — more than they ever thought possible.

The goal was to create a viral concept that can aid marketing of services. And it succeeded since it started on Twitter in the middle of March 2019. A 30-year-old man Sadiq Abubakar, from Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, is the initiator.

He confirmed to the National Public Radio (NPR) that his objective was to let the world learn about hardworking, young Nigerian entrepreneurs contrary to what others may think.

“I said, ‘Let’s do a hashtag and let the world know what we do.

“Young Nigerians are very determined to succeed. What we hear about young Nigerian people is that we are lazy. But we are hardworking. We want to make it.”

They are already making it in many tweets confirming improved sales in their businesses. Such as Sadiq Muhammed Kabir, 24, who is enjoying progress in international trade selling ginger root in Kaduna in the Northwest of Nigeria.

NPR shared about the young businessman who says his “life has never been the same. I got buyers around the world, like Canada, Dubai, even North America.”

Farming is profitable

The testimony about the magical hashtag is a long list testifying to how effective viral marketing can be.

In Kabir’s comment to NPR, he highlights that the youths in Nigeria find farming unattractive but he has benefited from it.

“Most young people in my country don’t really see [farming] as something good.

“They forget that farming is very, very lucrative,” he says.

Desperation for jobs

Sadiq Abubakar, who began the movement from his Twitter profile @The_Afrocentric, summed up that #ThisIsMyHustle, became a hit because so many youths are trying to rid their parents of the responsibility of caring for them financially.

The high rate of unemployment in Nigeria is a big bother.

University graduates are without jobs so they explore other creative means to make money like what has been seen on the hashtag so far.

“Young people finish school and then are not able to find a job.

“So they start selling anything they can to make an income. They don’t want to burden their parents,” 30-year-old Abubakar reveals.

Source Pulse Nigeria

These 5 Skills Are More Important for Entrepreneurs Than Any Fancy Degree

By Bill Green

One of the great fallacies about building a professional career is believing where you went to school dictates how successful you become.

This is one of the most heavily debated topics in the business world: the effective return on investment for attending college and/or pursue an MBA. Now, I’m not saying formal education is a poor investment, by any means. For many people, school is an opportunity to “know what you don’t know,” and that in itself makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Where people make the mistake, however, is in thinking the degree itself is all that’s needed.

They believe that because they attended the classes and passed the tests, then where they went to school will carry them to professional success–and that’s simply not true. As someone who didn’t end up graduating from college, I can tell you firsthand that over decades of building businesses, it’s the working skills I value in my partners and employees over a fancy resume. I would much rather hire the kid who has tried and failed, than the one who passed his or her classes with flying colors, but never attempted to put their theoretical knowledge to the test in the real world.

This is a topic I speak about at length in my book, All In. Again, I’m not saying a formal education or an MBA is a waste of time or money. Just make sure that, in addition to building your resume, you make it a point to acquire the following 5 skills.

These are the things that ultimately make you a professional success story–whether you climb the ladder of a larger organization, or you build your own from the ground up:

1. Honesty (With Yourself)

Lots of people have ideas.

Students, especially, before stepping into the real world, tend to get caught up in their ideas. They love thinking about them, brainstorming them, and sharing them with their friends and family. Unfortunately, ideas without execution don’t go very far. And while there is absolutely value in coming up with great ideas, an idea cannot become “great” until it faces its first customer.

One of the most valuable skills you can acquire early in your professional career is knowing the difference between what sounds great in theory, and what holds real value to a paying customer or a loyal user. And the only way to acquire this skill is to try a lot of different things. The more you create, and the more you try to build yourself, the faster you will learn what people are willing to pay for and what they would rather do without.

You’ll learn how to be honest about whether your idea has real potential or not.

2. Leadership

Entrepreneurship, working within a startup, or being part of a smaller team within a larger corporate environment, all require some capacity of team interaction.

Many entrepreneurs or “intrepreneurs” (those who bring massive value inside larger organizations) tend to forget that the best business ideas in the world require more than just plug-and-chug execution in order to be successful. All execution requires teamwork, and all teamwork requires a lengthy list of soft skills in order to keep people motivated, focused, and loyal. One of those soft skills is the ability to communicate your vision and lead those around you to victory.

The best way I’ve found to acquire the skill of leadership is to put yourself in environments where you either have the opportunity to learn from a talented leader, or to be forced to step up and become a leader yourself. Ideally, you’ll have a number of both of these experiences in your professional career.

3. Discipline

The kind of discipline school encourages is not the same discipline the real world asks of you.

In school, the punishment for not being “disciplined” with your work is quite inconsequential, all things considered. You might fail a test, or get a bad grade for the semester. But when you’re starting a company, or working within someone else’s company and handling paying clients, suddenly the consequences become very real. Your mistakes can be measured in cash.

Taking the idea of discipline a step further, school plans the path out for you. What is much more difficult is determining where you want to head on the path, while simultaneously dealing with unforeseen challenges at the same time. Persisting in the face of uncertainty, pressure, or the potential of failure, requires a level of discipline that cannot be acquired in a semester.

Discipline is something that takes years to master.

The best way to get started, then, is to find as many things in life to become disciplined about. If you can become disciplined with your finances, your daily schedule, your health, etc., then you are creating the habits that will set you up for success.

4. Optimism

This is a skill many don’t consciously acquire.

But the truth is, entrepreneurship and professional advancement is tough work. Every day isn’t great. The wins are far less frequent than the losses. And it can be very easy to fall into a state of mind where your day to day is seen as stressful, overwhelming, and a pain.

Listen, if you want to make it to the summit, remember this: it’s all in your head.

The ability to be optimistic and positive, even in the face of great obstacles, is not to be undervalued. You’re the one who chose to pursue a path of success. You’re the one who wanted to build something great. You’re the one who chose this life, for yourself. So, don’t look for the bad, the ugly, and the stressful. Instead, look for things to be thankful for: like the fact that you even have the opportunity to pursue what you’re passionate about in the first place.

Optimism isn’t a weakness. Optimism is the state of mind that will give you endurance for the long road ahead.

5. Resilience

Last but not least, I firmly believe it’s imperative that every young individual find opportunities, any opportunity at all, to build the skill of resilience.

For me, I gained this skill-building my first company, Wilmar, starting as a teenager in a flea market. There I was, selling hand tools off of a fold-up card table prices–I heard the word “No” dozens of times each day. But when I would eventually hear a “Yes,” I learned the importance of resilience and persistence. Had I accepted the first, or second, or twenty-third “No,” I might never have built Wilmar, a company that ended up eventually being acquired by Home Depot.

The reason why I always take fancy resumés with a grain of salt is because a resumé doesn’t always show you how resilient someone is. Sure, I want to know where you went to school, but I also want to know about a time in your life when someone told you, “No, that’s not going to work,” and you pressed on anyway. Regardless of whether you were successful or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you tried, and you became a little more resilient in the process.

This article was first published at Inc

Launching Your Business in 2019? Consider These 5 Tips

By Young Entrepreneur Council

If your New Year’s resolution is to launch a business, then keep reading. More and more people want to ditch their 9-to-5s and take control of their futures by starting their own businesses.

But starting a business isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter whether you want to start a small business from your spare room or create the next multimillion-dollar global phenomenon — if you’re not prepared, your business won’t succeed. Luckily, though, there are a number of tips you can adopt that will make the likelihood of your success that much greater.

If you’re launching your business in 2019, here are my tips for success.

1. Stop aiming for perfection.

When launching a new business, it’s natural to want everything to go smoothly. But if you want to be triumphant, you must let go of your perfectionist tendencies. While you might think that being a perfectionist will be beneficial to your new endeavor by making you more motivated and pushing you to strive for success, that’s not always the case. In fact, as reported by Harvard Business Review, perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

Stop aiming for perfection. When starting a new business, you’re bound to experience bumps in the road. If you expect them to happen, you’ll be better prepared. Mistakes don’t make you a failure — they help you learn and become a more successful entrepreneur when you overcome them.

2. Build a support system.

Building a business is difficult and you can’t do it alone. And I don’t just mean financially. Having a support system in place when you dive into your new business venture will make all the difference. If you think you already have a support system — after all, your parents and your spouse are supportive of your business — that’s great. But you also need to need to surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

If you don’t have that type of support system yet, build it. Start networking with other local business owners in your area or get online and join some LinkedIn or Facebook groups for entrepreneurs.

Plus, according to Psychology Today, being a part of a group is motivating and increases feelings of warmth. This can be incredibly beneficial to you on the rocky road to starting a business.

3. Think about the long term, not just day to day.

As reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, only about 50 percent of small businesses survive five years or longer. This statistic can typically be attributed to business owners getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia of the business.

Make sure to take some time each week to think about the long-term health of your business. Think about the goals you’ve set and how you’ll get there. Do you need to invest in marketing or employee development and training, for instance? Planning for the future will help ensure that your business is around for a long time.

4. Grow your skills.

As a business owner, you never stop learning. You may be starting a business because you have a lot of knowledge and experience in a field, but running a successful business requires a wide variety of skills and expertise. So, as a new business owner, you’ll need to be a jack or jill of all trades.

Spend some time growing your expertise in marketing, writing, SEO, bookkeeping, sales, general management, etc., to develop a well-rounded entrepreneurial skill set. There are a number of free resources online that can help you boost your skills. For example, HubSpot offers free courses on SEO, content marketing and more.

5. Start small.

Your biggest dream might be for your business to become a multimillion-dollar enterprise overnight, but that probably won’t be your reality — at least not immediately. Many new business owners try to do too much too soon because they think it’ll bring them success faster, but it won’t. Instead, start small and grow.

Starting small might mean bootstrapping your startup instead of trying to get a bunch of funding right out of the gate. It also might mean releasing one product or service first and getting some traction and experience instead of trying to put out an entire catalog of offerings. Starting small and giving your business time to grow will make things easier to manage.

Over to you.

Now that you’re more prepared for starting your own business, what are you waiting for? 2019 is yours for the taking. With these easy-to-follow tips, you can ensure that this year will be the year your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

This article was first published at Inc