10 Ways to Encourage Very Young People To be Entrepreneurs

By: Lionel Tarumbwa

Young people can be encouraged and inspired towards entrepreneurship the same way they have been traditionally inspired towards careers such as engineering, medicine or accounting.

With a growing young population and high unemployment, it is important to encourage more young people to take entrepreneurship as a career to fully harness Africa’s demographic dividend. 

Over the past decade, the Anzisha Prize has gained insight in various ways in which more young people may be encouraged to take the entrepreneurship career route. 

  1. Plant the seed early

In a 2016 study conducted in Morocco, researchers investigated the impact of entrepreneurship education and training in children between the ages of 11-12. In their conclusion, they suggested that it was possible to start imparting entrepreneurship training in middle childhood. 

  1. Bring Entrepreneurship into the Classroom

Educators can work towards designing a curriculum that fosters the growth of entrepreneurial skills and mindset across all courses. This approach ensures that entrepreneurship is taught across the board and does not segregate to a few students who get to participate only in Student Venture Programs. 

  1. Student Venture Programs

The Africa Leadership Academy’s inhouse SVP program is a testament of how well-designed simulation of a real-life economy nurtures entrepreneurial spirit in young people. SVP’s help students grow their entrepreneurship skills through practice. Through the program, students start and manage a business. This allows them to learn all the mechanics involved in running a business at an early stage. The Anzisha Prize has published a guide that guides educators in designing a Student Venture Program that is suited to their context. You can download the guide here.

  1. Parental Support is Important

It is important for parents to be a leading voice towards advocating for entrepreneurship as a career choice. Parents need to raise awareness to their children about entrepreneurship. The role of the parent is important in also being supportive of children who choose entrepreneurship as a career choice. In its publication, Parenting The Boss, Anzisha shares insights from parents of entrepreneurs about their experiences in helping their children achieve success. 

  1. Celebrate Success Stories 

During the 2019 Anzisha Prize Forum, investors noted that it was important to publicise stories of very young entrepreneurs in Africa to a wider audience. They explained that the current narrative leans more towards the idea that investing in VYEs in Africa is risky and often does not go well for investors. This negative perception not only affects investors, but it can also impact potential entrepreneurs, educators or parents. Celebrating youth entrepreneurship success stories reduces negative perceptions when stakeholders understand what can be achieved by very young entrepreneurs.

  1. Effective Implementation of Policies

Several African governments have policies that focus on SMEs and youth entrepreneurship. However, these policies have been ineffective due to persistent bureaucracy and corruption which stifle entrepreneurship. Anzisha reports that its own research in Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire has shown that current policies, practices, and regulations appear to enhance corruption, which ultimately stifles entrepreneurial growth and job creation opportunities. Governments need to work on policy implementation that reduces arbitrage opportunities and supports job creation.

  1. Create Safe and Supportive Ideation Spaces

Offering very young entrepreneurs admission into incubators and accelerators alleviates the risk and fear that comes with taking the leap into entrepreneurship alone. Anzisha also provides accelerator support for VYEs through its annual Anzisha Prize Fellowship. The two-week initiative offers one-on-one coaching, shadow initiatives and introduces young entrepreneurs to stakeholders who are crucial for their business growth.

  1. Patient and Supportive Finance

Public and private institutions need to adapt their investment offerings to suit very young entrepreneurs and facilitate their success. Investors need to be aware of the unique context in which very young entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses. 

Their circumstances make it hard to access finance under the traditional terms and conditions that financiers often want to be met. A patient and supportive approach to financing VYE’s may encourage the start of more youth-led businesses.

  1. Offer Mentorship and Guidance

The journey of starting a business is demanding and it is a bit harsh to expect very young entrepreneurs to go through it alone. It is important to facilitate mentorship for youths who are taking the entrepreneurship route. Mentoring programmes can ensure that very young entrepreneurs do not only get inspiration when the going gets tough, but they can also tap into the wealth of experience and lessons that have been accumulated by experienced entrepreneurs. 

  1. Increase Collaboration Among Potential Very Young Entrepreneurs

 The rise of innovation hubs and co-working spaces has increased the rate of collaboration among entrepreneurs. It is important to support more potential entrepreneurs to join coworking spaces as they help them unlock the value of their business. Very young entrepreneurs can benefit through peer learning and sharing of creative talent in coworking spaces. 

A Combined Effort

It requires a combined effort from stakeholders within the VYE ecosystem to ensure that more young people are encouraged to be entrepreneurs. The pandemic has even increased the fears that young people may have of starting a business. Stakeholders need to ensure that young people increasingly see opportunity for entrepreneurship rather than disaster in the change that has taken place.