Rather than debate on youth versus entrepreneurship, better support systems are needed.
What determines a good entrepreneur? And how do we bolster youth entrepreneurship in Kenya? Nevertheless, spending your time following the youth versus entrepreneurship debate is a pointless endeavor. What with all the youths roaming on the streets scrapping the bear bottom just to make ends meet? Or the older generation that let us all down? The debate is only pointless, therefore, because none of the participants are addressing the core issues.
In truth, the would-be beneficial debate has now descended into a modern-day mudslinging contest. And nobody is interested in addressing the fundamental issues responsible for youth unemployment. The common template is simple: young Kenyans blame the older generation. The latter does its best to duck the accusations. And round and round we go… waiting for another election period.
Youth Entrepreneurship in Kenya
The past few years have seen both concepts used increasingly. Especially when they have to appear in the same sentence. Youth versus unemployment has become landmine of diverse views. Nobody is benefiting, lots of youths are losing out.
The need to eschew responsibility is understandable, unfortunately. We know, for example, that the need to take up entrepreneurship is forced upon most youths. In most cases, this arises from the continued escalation of poverty amid the drastic decline in employment rates.
And by the difficulty in meeting basic needs owing to tough economic conditions. Yet, while every country seeks to promote entrepreneurship as the remedy to rising rates of unemployment, the perception of youths as both essential cogs in the campaign and the solution is lacking critical support.
A fact the young adults are not averse to reminding everyone involved. Or those interested in the issue. The rampant social media campaigns against employed political figures and other civil servants urging youths to start own business is a good case in point.
The situation is no different across the continent. The World Economic Forum believes that Africa has a greater chance to alleviate poverty and lower the rate of unemployment using entrepreneurship by the youths. Unlike most African governments, however, the World Bank and other private entities proceed to try and resolve the menace of unemployment. By channeling funds through government agencies, attempts have been made to help youths start or grow their businesses.
What the youth versus entrepreneurship debate needs is to have these efforts by international organizations, NGOs and private venture capitalists matched by the respective governments, both at national and county levels. However, even such an approach must focus on helping Kenyan youths find their way economically, whether through employment or entrepreneurship. As expected by the country’s older generations, our young adults have the potential to form the foundation upon which most of our national problems will be solved. But only if we help them realize and sustain any significant progress they are making right now.
The challenge of realizing a reasonable balance between youth and entrepreneurship are many. These range from the fact that new enterprises need capital infusion for the projects to take off to the need for proper management skills. Capital remains the single most inhibitive factor in youth entrepreneurship, especially as most youths lack access to sufficient financial backing. While there are alternative sources of funding, these are also very competitive.
Despite all the challenges, societal efforts to strengthen entrepreneurship are underway in most African countries. It is easy to equip youths into becoming successful entrepreneurs in the four steps highlighted hereunder;
- Involve households and the community in entrepreneur education workshops to ensure the entrepreneur and society embrace the challenge of starting a new venture.
- Assist budding entrepreneurs to develop essential business, technical and life skills necessary to carry on business in the new business undertaking.
- Implement business support systems ready to guide new entrepreneurs throughout the early stages.
- Create entrepreneurship mentoring programs where accomplished business personalities help the youth entrepreneur find his way.
Admittedly, it is hard for new young entrepreneurs to break through and succeed in the insanely competitive corporate environment. With a little help, however, Kenyan youths could build the most robust, most stable foundation upon which to build for the future. As such, every effort to help them find solutions for current problems, including poverty, unemployment, and many others are definitely worth their weight in gold.
And the good news is that despite the obstacles, several young adults are curving out a way for themselves. It no longer is a call for support to start, not per se, but to help advance a movement already in place.