Mixed Livelihoods: An increasing option for young African entrepreneurs!

Mixed livelihoods was a term that I first heard during the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit in Cape Town when I attended in 2015. This term refers to the ability for young African youth to move in and out of different formal and informal experiences as opportunities present themselves. This article will focus on how young Africans pursue a variety of income sources as they try to navigate the world of unemployment. This also includes their ability to own multiple businesses as their mixed livelihood. Below is a list of reasons why we should encourage youth who are passionate about seeking multiple income streams to do so.

Reasons why we support Mixed Livelihoods

  1. It reduces risk: When an entrepreneur runs one business, there is always the risk that if that business fails there will not have any other streams of income to rely on. In the case of entrepreneurs with mixed livelihoods, they are able to rely on the successes of the other businesses.
  2. It allows for failures: When an entrepreneur is running multiple businesses, when one fails there is still the opportunity to rely on their other businesses. This is only valid if all the businesses have reached a certain level of success.
  3. It allows for experimentation: Although having multiple streams of income reduces risk for the entrepreneur, it also allows the entrepreneur to experiment with different products and take more risks in the manner in which they run their business. When an entrepreneur knows that they have a business that is successful, they are more likely to experiment with their product or service offerings.
  4. It is financially empowering: When an entrepreneur has multiple streams of income from their various successful ventures then they are financially empowered to make the best decisions for their business and their future.
  5. It creates more jobs: When young entrepreneurs have mixed livelihoods in the form of different businesses, they are creating more jobs than they would have if they were focusing on one business. This is also on the assumption that their businesses are successful and operating at maximum capacity.

Experience with our Anzisha fellow’s shows that this avenue of income generation has become more prominent with our applications. We have termed Anzisha fellows who have multiple income streams as serial entrepreneurs. They are constantly trying new ideas and testing how the market responds. This results in a large portfolio of businesses that they manage.

Our fellows indicate that it is important for them to put their eggs in different baskets so they can diversify and take advantage of various market opportunities. In the past we have had Andrew Ddembe from Uganda and Jeffrey Mulaudzi from South Africa as our serial entrepreneurs who have more than one business allowing them to generate income from multiple sources. This year, we were intrigued by Ajiroghene Omanudhowo one of the 2017 Anzisha applicants who has three businesses under a parent company called 360 Needs. His first business is ASAFOOD which delivers Food to Universities. The second business is ASADROP which is a logistics company specializing in parcel delivery. The third business is called Beta Grades which delivers computer training to students that helps them prepare for their exams. This portfolio of work allows Ajiro to continually try new products and sectors where he foresees success.

The danger in mixed livelihoods is that entrepreneurs aren’t able to focus on the success of one business and split their resources to multiple efforts. For this to be successful, it is important that entrepreneurs with mixed livelihoods have strong teams that they can rely on to allow them to divide their attention. Without a strong team, an entrepreneur may end up with multiple businesses that are mediocre and are not meetings goals or raising income.