Youth Convention: Testing the theory on the ground

The Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA) in partnership with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) have summoned emerging youth leaders from across the continent to deliberate and take position on the African Union’s Africa We Want Agenda 2063 strategy. Youth are gathered together at the AACC Desmond Tutu Conference Centre until 26 November, 2015, to discuss the theme Youth Engagement towards Agenda 2063: ‘The Africa We Want’ and Skills building for the 21st century.

Various issues were discussed during the second day of proceedings, including “Mapping opportunities for youth in Africa in line with Agenda 2063: Nurturing Innovation in Entrepreneurship”.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of innovation which is vital for wealth creation in Africa. This was the key learning from Dr. Stanley Ndung’u who facilitated the session on entrepreneurship. I asked Dr Ndung’u about African entrepreneurship:

AAY: What is the best definition of entrepreneurship since most scholars have given different positions?

Dr. Ndung’u: Scholars cannot be begrudged for providing different definitions because that is how academic work is; different stands are taken due to the different approaches to research, hence it is fair to have different definitions. Instead of defining entrepreneurship, let me talk about the different groupings of entrepreneurship; this is because I believe that the definition of entrepreneurship has become basic in the extent to which the definitions available are as numerous as the number of attempts to define the term.

AAY: What are these groupings then?

Dr. Ndung’u: Here, I would like to borrow the academic position of Gray in grouping the scope of entrepreneurship; An entrepreneurship is known as a micro business if it employs between 1-9 people. It can be known as a small business if it employs between 10-49 people or a medium scale business if it employs between 50-100 people (SME).

AAY: Why do SMEs feature in Entrepreneurship?

Dr. Ndung’u: SMEs contribute to 50% of jobs in Africa and it is important to promote it in order to create more jobs and wealth in Africa.

AAY: Are we not overemphasising the concept of entrepreneurship?

Dr. Ndung’u: There are many Africans with degrees, Masters and even PhDs yet there is low job creation. Solutions to our challenges from this sector are not forthcoming in the measure we require, hence we need to engage in radical forms of wealth creation whilst addressing our challenges.

AAY: Why the youth?

Dr. Ndung’u: The youth bulge has the capacity to undoubtedly promote critical political SMEs in Africa

AAY: Does Entrepreneurship have anything to regret?

Dr. Ndung’u: Certainly yes, 80% of SMEs worldwide fail to celebrate their 3rd anniversary and this is a big blow, however, it is also the nature of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs must be able to rise up from their falls and pursue their dreams.

AAY: Innovation is a component of entrepreneurship, how necessary is it?

Dr. Ndung’u: Very. It’s innovate or die.

Immediately after the entrepreneurship session, organisers of the Youth Convention led participants to Kariobangi, a town in Kenya, to learn about what some young people, through Community-Based Organisations (CBO), are doing to address the needs of their community.

The 2007/8 post-election violence positioned many Kenyan communities in very lamentable situation, the town of Kariobangi is no exception. As a result, 11 CBOs in the town came together to form a company (limited by liability) with the sole aim of addressing the needs of the community whilst providing sources of income for staff and others.

Two key challenges confronting the community were the lack of potable drinking water and poor waste management systems, in particular plastic waste. The company established by the CBOs was able to secure support from 10 top corporates in Kenya which provided seed financial support to the start-up.

The economic strategy of this seed fund is to provide return on investment after 6 years which is to be ploughed back into other areas of entrepreneurship and community needs.

The youth, who manage the company, now man a clinic that daily treats over 300 patients suffering from water borne disease; they have also been able to mount a waste recycling plant to turn plastic waste to new plastic and rubber products. In addition, they have provided two giant polytanks that service the community with 40,000 litres of drinking water.

Participants of the Youth Convention were enthused about this experience and have resolved to learn from this outing in order to address similar challenges in their own communities. It is their hope that the AAYMCA and AACC shall give them the support they need.

By Cedric Dzelu, S2C Ambassador. Ghana

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