• Several participants from Europe and Africa commented that they are currently self-employed and running their own businesses. According to Solomon in Ghana, “lots of young graduates are starting their own companies, especially in [information and communication technologies] ICT and are making great strides.” This trend seems to be increasing among urban youth who are graduating from colleges and universities and finding it hard to secure permanent employment. Dirk from the Netherlands told us that, “website development, as well as social businesses in Middle Eastern countries, are creating employment” for young entrepreneurs.
• In the Dominican Republic, Maria painted a complex picture:
“Many of the private universities in the Dominican Republic offer programmes within their curricula through which students receive sponsorship to begin their business. Such new businesses fall into the categories of restaurants, entertainment, retail and technology. Since such youth are exposed to a higher level of education, they are better prepared to approach entrepreneurial activities than youth in the lower-income class.” However, she goes on to say: “for youth in lower income classes…microfinance organizations have been increasing rapidly, and they facilitate the process of borrowing money to these… classes, allowing them to develop their business ideas…many businesses such as small convenience stores, hair salons, drug stores and art shops have been able to develop due to the loans received from microfinance institutions.” Indeed, it is often the young men and women who have left school in order to generate extra income (to help their parents) who run most of these businesses.
On the upside…
• Pooja from India informed us that young people in the tribal area of Chindwara are finding employment through silk production:
“Silk production is a new way for them to be employed. Tribal young farmers are earning a huge amount of money through silk production. The plan was started in villages in the year 2007 and it has changed the lives of farmers. They are getting Rs. 50000-60000 per acre. The Silk Department is providing free plants and financial support to tribal farmers.”
• There is some degree of policy and programme support from Governments:one of the examples quoted by Rachelle, 23, with Taking It Global in Canada is the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, which “offers young entrepreneurs aged 18-34 mentorship, learning resources and start-up financing. Since 2002, the Foundation has helped young Canadians start more than 4,000 businesses and created 18,000 jobs.”
• With regard to policy development, Hira, 22, from Pakistan highlighted the Government of Pakistan’s recent development strategy, the New Growth Strategy. She informed us that:
“This strategy talks about productivity, market reforms, creative cities, connectivity and infrastructure and youth engagement as essential pillars of a new growth model. Youth entrepreneurship is a major pillar in the framework and an implementation plan is currently being developed.”
• Sergio Iriarte Quezada, week I’s moderator and Knowledge Management Officer for the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Programme on Youth Employment, reminded participants this week of the ILO’s Know about Business (KAB) initiative. Sergio informed us that:
“It aims to foster positive attitudes among young people towards enterprise development and self-employment. It also creates awareness of enterprises and self-employment as a career option for young people in secondary and vocational education, and provides knowledge and information to start and operate a successful enterprise. KAB is a training programme for trainers and teachers in vocational education, secondary education and also higher education for young students between ages 15 and 18.”
• According to Evona from Cameroon, “the only way to solve the unemployment problem …is the creation of small and medium enterprises.”
On the downside…
• Several young participants expressed concern about their Government’s commitment to providing opportunities for both rural and urban youth in terms of trainings, education and employment. Indeed, several young people suggested that Governments should act proactively to ensure that young people are given the opportunity to be hired by private companies. Alejandro, 22, from Mexico believes that, “[The United States and] U.S./Mexico can help by facilitating… youth participation [in the job market], because most of the youth are not given the right opportunities to express their skills, knowledge, talents and creative skills.”
• Participants shared the view that there are bottlenecks associated with starting one’s own business. According to Solomon from Ghana, these include “finances, office space, and tax requirements, which should be addressed proactively. If this is done, a lot more young men and women will strive to be innovative and generate incomes for themselves!” Other challenges experienced were limited access to information, funding and support from donor agencies, international development organizations, Governments and academic institutions.
• Ayshah, 26, from Kenya was keen to tell us that many young people are embracing the issue of self-employability and entrepreneurship, but:
“The major issue is lack of capital to expand their business or even start their business due to high interest rates offered by the banks here in Kenya. As far as microfinance is concerned, the intake of loans by young people is low compared to adults, [who] repay their loans more quickly than young people, despite…the Government’s… youth fund. …the terms and conditions [associated with the fund] scare us away - like collateral. Surely, where else – but from our parents – can we get [collateral]?”