New Research Points Toward An Investment In Very Young Entrepreneurs

…To Unlock Peer-to-peer Driven Employment Growth


By Ifeoma Asika, Correspondent, Campuses

Investments in supporting successful transitions from school and university directly to entrepreneurship could unlock significant employment gains in Africa, this is according to a new research paper from the Anzisha Prize which has worked with very young African entrepreneurs for over a decade.

To produce the report, the Anzisha Prize commissioned in-depth desk top reviews and new field research from leading academics as well as held workshops with key stakeholders across the continent over more than a year. 

“We really wanted to respond to this lack of data around the questions we were dealing with in a way that could credibly influence policy,” comments Executive Director, Josh Adler: “In our most recent analysis, just 77 of our 122 Anzisha Fellows had created over 2000 dignified work opportunities and 56 per cent of those jobs were for young people under 25. In addition, 3 of our Anzisha Fellows have placed a total of 825 people in jobs of which 60 per cent were under 25. We wanted more evidence to support what we were seeing in our programme, so commissioned all this research activity.”

The Very Young Entrepreneur Scenario research project kicked off in late 2018 with a green paper and series of participatory workshops to explore what the future might hold for Very Young (15 to 25 year-old) Entrepreneurs in Africa. Dozens of organisations participated over several months, with clear recommendations emerging for 5 key stakeholder groups – Educators, Parents, Investors, Incubators and Policy Makers. Most interestingly, a pattern emerged around who the most important yet poorly served stakeholder group is; parents.

“We are hoping that this research leads to far more organisations that are trying to tackle employment and education in Africa focusing their energies on parents” continues Adler. “We see parents as the forgotten stakeholder of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The report is careful not to paint youth entrepreneurship as a panacea. Rather, very young entrepreneurship and successful transitions from school to entrepreneurship are under-invested so significant gains could be realised if that share of wallet was increased. It also provides an important counter perspective on a commonly held view that older entrepreneurs are more successful and more impactful.

“Through the Anzisha Prize, we have observed that young entrepreneurs are more likely to hire other young people,” comments Chief Programme Officer at Mastercard Foundation, which has supported the Anzisha Prize since inception, Peter Materu. “Now, we have evidence that builds the case for supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship at a very young age, and helps us better understand how to do that. Certainly entrepreneurship, especially at such young ages, is not for everyone. But this report is shaping a narrative that positions young people as economic change agents.”

Key insights that stand out from the research process underpinning Anzisha’s scenario work:

  • Very young entrepreneurship sits at the intersection of three established policy spaces – education policy, small enterprise policy and youth policy – and often gets lost in between.
  • While there are many initiatives taking place to support the growth of (youth) entrepreneurship in African countries, there is  very  little  evidence  available to  measure progress and  determine impact, and even less so when the focus is on very young entrepreneurs.
  • Very young entrepreneurs create jobs for other young people across the continent, despite the lack of investment in this age group. Very young entrepreneurs have less access to credit than older entrepreneurs. New innovations in lending and investment are needed to support the job creation potential of very young entrepreneurs.
  • For many very young entrepreneurs, the dominant source of financing remains family and friends.
  • Early exposure to entrepreneurship, and quality entrepreneurship education integrated into existing education systems is essential to foster entrepreneurial aspirations.

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