By Mohamed Guleid
As the global economic landscape undergoes rapid transformations, one of the major challenges faced by countries, particularly in Africa, is the pervasive issue of youth unemployment.
This challenge is further complicated by limited alternative opportunities for the younger people to secure decent livelihoods.
In Africa, where over 60% of the population comprises youth under the age of 35, addressing this issue is not merely a social imperative but a crucial economic necessity.
The continent's sustainable development hinges on harnessing the demographic dividend latent within its youth population.
Africa's greatest asset
Africa boasts the distinction of having the youngest population globally, with a staggering 65% below the age of 25 and a median age of 19.6 years, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's statistics.
This youth population is often regarded as one of Africa's greatest assets, possessing the potential to drive economic growth and innovation.
However, paradoxically, it also stands as a formidable threat if not provided with adequate opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.
One of the most significant impediments faced by the youth in their entrepreneurial endeavors is the challenge of accessing capital.
The financial barrier
The lack of required collateral often renders them ineligible to secure credit from traditional financial institutions, hindering their ability to turn their innovative ideas into viable businesses.
This financial barrier is a critical issue that demands strategic interventions to unlock the potential harbored by Africa's burgeoning youth population.
In the complex landscape of addressing youth unemployment in Africa, the lack of mentorship stands out as another significant challenge faced by the younger demographic.
Mentorship, coupled with access to the right information through career counseling, is crucial in nurturing the potential of the youth and guiding them towards sustainable and fulfilling career paths.
Additionally, the abundance of natural resources in Africa presents a unique opportunity to leverage these assets for the benefit of the youth and the continent as a whole.
Pairing talents with professionals
Establishing mentorship programs that connect experienced professionals with young talents can bridge this gap.
These programs should be designed not only to offer advice on career choices but also to provide insights into navigating the challenges unique to the African business landscape.
Experienced mentors can share practical knowledge, impart soft skills, and help the youth build professional networks, all of which are instrumental in their success.
Expanding on the potential offered by Africa's vast natural resources, there is an opportunity to create sustainable employment and entrepreneurial ventures for the youth.
The continent is rich in minerals, arable land, and renewable energy sources, presenting avenues for innovation and economic growth.
Governments, in collaboration with private enterprises, can develop initiatives that encourage the youth to explore careers in sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, and sustainable resource management.
For instance, promoting agribusiness and sustainable farming practices can not only create employment opportunities but also contribute to food security and economic diversification.
Similarly, investing in renewable energy projects can not only address the continent's energy needs but also provide a platform for the youth to engage in innovative and environmentally conscious ventures.
Moreover, mentorship programs can be tailored to the specific needs of youth interested in sectors related to natural resource management.
Experienced professionals in agriculture, environmental sciences, and renewable energy can guide and inspire the next generation of leaders in these fields.
Therefore, addressing the lack of mentorship and providing the youth with access to the right information through career counseling are essential components of a comprehensive strategy to tackle youth unemployment in Africa.
By connecting experienced mentors with aspiring young individuals and by leveraging Africa's abundant natural resources, the continent can unlock new avenues for economic growth and empower its youth to become drivers of sustainable development.
Mentorship and informed career choices will not only benefit individuals but will also contribute to building a resilient and dynamic workforce that propels Africa towards a brighter and more prosperous future.
In this context, start-up support organizations emerge as indispensable players in fostering a conducive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
These organisations, ranging from business hubs to incubators, play a pivotal role in addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by young entrepreneurs.
They provide valuable advice and training in key areas such as business skills, infrastructure development, market linkage strategies, and, most importantly, financing.
By offering a supportive environment and access to essential resources, these entities empower entrepreneurs and founders to overcome initial hurdles, enabling them to focus on business growth and development.
Moreover, the incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into these support mechanisms facilitates increased business productivity and market reach across various sectors.
Governments across the African region have recognised the potential of intensified entrepreneurial activity in bringing about not only economic benefits but also improving social cohesion.
With a third of the global youth expected to reside in Africa by 2050, the responsibility falls upon governments and businesses alike to assist the younger generation in developing long-term growth plans.
Nurturing, mentoring, and financing entrepreneurial competence become paramount in this endeavor.
Governments should not merely serve as regulators but as catalysts for fostering an entrepreneurial culture.
By implementing policies that encourage innovation, providing targeted mentorship programs, and facilitating easier access to capital, African nations can create an environment conducive to unleashing the entrepreneurial potential latent within their youth.
Asset and threat
As we navigate economic uncertainties and slowdowns, it becomes imperative to explore innovative ways of supporting young business owners.
Traditional models may fall short in addressing the evolving challenges of the business landscape.
Governments, businesses, and financial institutions need to collaborate on devising novel strategies that protect young entrepreneurs from future disruptions.
Addressing youth unemployment in Africa requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort.
By recognising the youth population as both a valuable asset and a potential threat, and by strategically investing in entrepreneurship support mechanisms, governments and businesses can unlock the continent's demographic dividend.
The future of Africa's sustainable development depends on its ability to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of its youth, paving the way for innovation, economic growth, and social progress.
The writer Mohamed Guleid is the Former Deputy Governor of Isiolo County in Kenya
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT Afrika.
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