Training youths in business skills can alleviate Africa’s chronic unemployment rates

September 13, 2013

Few days ago, I met a lady involved in an initiative that is geared towards helping young people in Africa to acquire skills in business. Her main focus is how young men and women in African countries can start or improve their ventures. According to her research she conducted in a period of three years in 35 African countries, there are close to 1 million students in Africa who have been given the chance to learn business skills through private and partnership initiatives that have been well supported by most of current African countries including hers. The idea of her non- governmental organization is to collaborate with individual governments to craft programs that boost entrepreneurship in the continent. In our short but very important chinwag, her NGO has also been working with the international organizations to implement some projects. The NGO curriculum includes case studies and instructions on carrying out business simulations. The energetic looking blonde stressed to me how the need for business training in colleges and even high school can help alleviate the chronic employment problems in the poorest yet richest resource continent. So far, her non-governmental organization in collaboration has trained more than 32,000 people across the continent. African Union has been urging their member states to arrest the escalating unemployment problem that has bedeviled all member states with some countries recording rates of as high as 95%.

In our conversation, it was clear that in order for Africa and other developing regions to address the alarmingly low rate of entrepreneurship and help stimulation of businesses that make up the informal economy there must be initiatives and effective plans to train youths. The lady who shared with me her vision was optimistic the business training program would succeed in helping young educated Africans graduating from schools in millions per annum to venture and start their own income generating activities. In one of the cases in Tanzania, she came across young, dynamic graduates who were actually very creative, but could not start their business due to lack of business skills. After training them, they now earn more than $7,000 per month from their agricultural businesses. The inspiring story of that lady whose programs are in line with the continent’s drive to support agriculture sector and other high growth industries like creative industry, will no doubt help the world’s poorest continent to maximize its abundant human resources coming out from universities in millions every year. On the downside of her initiatives, the biggest problem she has faced to date is that most young Africans especially from the outback do not have enough spirit to see that business is equal to white collar jobs that most of them think is what will earn them respect from their rural folks.

She also shared with a study that conducted few months ago that showed young African graduates knowledge about business is very minimal and some of them have no courage to start a business. The study covering top 26 African economies concluded that entrepreneurship skills that filter down to trainees could help them address the continent’s chronic unemployment problem through job creation. It conclusion, I can say that if all Africans, regardless of their interests, age or gender, are provided with entrepreneurial skills, Africa will become a great continent that can prevent future western media stereotypes like ‘hopeless continent’ and cement the ‘Africa rising’ that now become reference tag. There’s no doubt such initiatives will continue to have challenges especially those working with various institutions in different countries because African countries have differing standards on of education and business trainings and programs. Just like those of us who’ve been at the university, quality assurance is extremely important and those involved should ensure practical skills are supported and implemented. Me think it is absolutely critical to start teaching entrepreneurship as early as possible. Parents and other stakeholders should be encouraged to get involved in developing the graduates business skills. I was delighted to learn how such a program has already helped around 32,000 youths across the continent that has definitely given young people hope in getting income in addition to acquiring skills and self-confidence.

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Contador Harrison