Africa is a continent of hope; its youth are at the centre of its renaissance and they are the fastest growing demographic with Africa’s population expected to more than double by 2050 to 2.4 billion. There are over 200 million Africans aged between 15 and 24 years making Africa the youngest continent on the globe and by 2040, Africa’s young workforce will be the largest in the world, surpassing that of both China and India. The youth in Africa are ambitious; most becoming economically active and entrepreneurial out of necessity, and they are demonstrating a wealth of resourcefulness and inventiveness providing a range of enterprises and services. An African youth, is at least doing something be it in the garden, or at least in a corner of an urban centre. Despite this ingenuity, these young entrepreneurs have limited right opportunities and access to skills development, mentors, social networks, and finances that could escalate their business enterprises. Several have learned the power of tele-communication technology and social media and are growing their businesses on this front, many are still struggling but have a high potential given increased access to financial services and markets, business connections, education, training and exposure, mentorship and support systems for networking that unlock their full potential.
Increasingly, it is being recognized that Africa needs to utilise a different set of capital to grow its entrepreneurs to a competitive level on a global dimension. In seeking to do so, it is recognized that collaboration and professionalism are two important ingredients to building an entrepreneurial culture and base that can facilitate entry, survival and further innovativeness of the young African entrepreneurs in business. It is therefore imperative that a dynamic ecosystem of actors and resources that further business incubation, facilitate access to capital and business development services, strengthen mentorship, networking and exposure as well as peer-to-peer support are explored, implemented and supported sustainably. The focus of such actions are to ensure that the burgeoning young enterprises’ mortality is reduced and they are spurred to achieve their considerable potential in speeding inclusive economic growth and facilitate better livelihoods and poverty reduction. Despite active involvement in enterprise development, many of Africa’s youth businesses are concentrated in limited sectors; for example, 64% of the youth in sub-Saharan Africa involved in the retail, hotel and restaurant trade with almost all (97%) of youth businesses in the retail sector being low-growth businesses and 54% of which offer employment to only the business owner. Even amidst these presumably grim statistics, Africa’s young entrepreneurs offer great opportunity to; create new businesses, drive and shape innovation, speed up structural changes in the economy, and introduce new competition-thereby contributing to productivity and expanding the employment base by absorbing several other young people into their enterprises. Africa’s young entrepreneurs thus need critical support to successfully go through the entrepreneurial pipeline with the focus being to see more young people as established business owners; who own and manage a business that has been in operation for more than 42 months. Moving this direction is not only strategic but important at national and regional level as a foundation to increasing the range of jobs that they create in the economies, increase their participation in the economy as well as strengthen financial inclusion of the youth in Africa.
The RUFORUM Young African Entrepreneurs Competition primary purpose is to promote business innovation through entrepreneurship and provide seed funding to young entrepreneurs with creative and innovative business ideas to be valorized and enhance and foster a spirit of entrepreneurship among African youth. The competition specifically seeks to:
- Provide young entrepreneurs with opportunity to show-case their businesses and share their development as an inspiration to many young African potential entrepreneurs
- Bring collective action towards provision of seed funding to young entrepreneurs through a transparent and competitive process.
- Provide a platform for young entrepreneurs to demonstrate their impact and pitch their business with investors and stakeholders through capacity building opportunity.
- Create a network of young entrepreneurs across Africa working together and sharing experiences that escalate youth contribution and job creation in Africa.
The challenge will target young people between 16-34 years.