As part of a recent contract, AEI carried out consultations with young people across the globe, from countries on three continents: Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Pacific. Despite differences in culture, economic context, and opportunities, participants across regions and continents highlighted the same areas for prioritization from practitioners and funders. These are the four main thematic areas where youth agreed that entrepreneurship programs need to focus.
Build skills first:
In every consultation, youth expounded on the importance of different kinds of skills building, that allowed them to 1) have basic competencies (life skills, financial literacy), 2) provided skills that allowed them access to information and opportunities (for example, digital skills to better use online platforms) and 3) expanded their understanding and awareness (green skills, green mindset) and 4) provided technical skills necessary for entrepreneurial opportunities.
Link skills to entrepreneurship opportunities:
Youth highlighted that often they might receive skills training, or entrepreneurship training/support, but the two were rarely linked together. And, even more rarely linked to a market scan or market analysis to identify client needs, unmet demand, and gaps in the market. Instead, projects often followed fads (climate smart entrepreneurs!) that look good on paper but were not linked to any real opportunities and needs.
Youth in all regions underscored the barriers that young women face in becoming entrepreneurs. Some of these barriers are related to access and autonomy, and others to the willingness of parents to invest resources for a girl’s business idea, versus a boy, even if both are equally qualified and prepared. At the core, these barriers were related to negative gender norms and biases about women’s ability to travel, to succeed, to invest and to carry out independent activities. Therefore, youth spoke to the importance of working with families and communities of youth to address these harmful norms as part of any entrepreneurship project.
Provide different and ongoing types of support:
The topic of greatest importance was support – support to develop an idea, support to get started, support to grow and expand the business, support to access financing, support to receive additional training and opportunity…the list went on. For youth this could take different forms, from peer-to-peer mentors, to grants, to in-kind support (think start-up kits), to access to business development services, to financial counseling, to apprenticeships and networking. The HOW of support was varied, but the need for multi-faceted and on-going support was made clear.
Massandjé Touré is Director of AEI. Passionate about youth development and entrepreneurship, she has nearly 10 years of experience in managing youth organizations with high social impact. Massandjé is also co-founder of SU-KAAYA, an association which provides young people with digital and professional skills through coaching and mentoring.