High-level panel from Africa backs youth entrepreneurship policies

02 May 2014

Young entrepreneurs can unlock development potential, high-level panel tells UNCTAD Commission; ten finalists of Women in Business Awards also announced.​

High-level policy makers from Africa highlighted their experiences supporting young entrepreneurs in an effort to defuse what UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi called an “employment time bomb” in developing countries as their populations grow and get younger. The panel discussion held on 28 April was part of the UNCTAD Investment, Enterprise and Development Commission.

The First Lady of Ethiopia, Ms. Roman Tesfaye, said it was important to encourage young people in Africa to engage in entrepreneurship as a means of creating jobs, innovation and sustainable development because, as in the case of Ethiopia, it was a vital part of state-building to give young people a stake in their own and their country’s future.

Mr. Chishimba Kambwili, the Minister of Youth and Sport of Zambia, shared his experience helping young Zambians to start and grow businesses that not only create jobs but also improve the quality of life in their communities.

"The education system should have an orientation that [helps] young people to become job creators and not job seekers," Mr. Kambwili said, noting that young people made up more than half the population of Zambia.

Mr. Jean Marie Louis Badga, Director of the SME Department within the Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts in Cameroon said it was important to integrate young entrepreneurship into labour policies and private sector development strategies.

Panelists emphasized the role of policy in facilitating an enabling environment to support young entrepreneurs and stressed the importance of UNCTAD's Entrepreneurship Policy Framework (EPF) and how it has been implemented in different countries since 2012.

Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, the Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana said, for example, that the EPF was currently being adapted to Ghana with the aim of developing a national entrepreneurship and SME policy, and an action strategy for the country.

The work of UNCTAD and its strategic partners on youth entrepreneurship was also featured. This includes the forthcoming Guiding Framework for Youth Entrepreneurship developed in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat which was presented by in a keynote speech by Commonwealth Secretariat Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

Ms. Jeroo Billimoria, Director of Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI), presented Youth-Co, a new online portal – which will be launched at the United Nations in New York on 23 May 2014 – that aims to help young entrepreneurs around the world connect and share coaching and investment opportunities, facilitate sustainable development and ensure job creation.

In addition, the Uganda and Jordan directors of Empretec – UNCTAD’s flagship programme dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship in developing countries and economies in transition – illustrated the work that is being done to instill entrepreneurship behaviour in youth in their respective countries.

A young beneficiary of the Empretec programme in Uganda, Ms. Peace Victoria Nyero-Too, told the commission how she had started a successful poultry rearing business with just $50, a few chicks and inspiration from her training. She now employs six people and plans to open a full-scale modern poultry farm next year.

Empretec Women in Business Award: finalists announced

One of the highlights of the commission was the announcement of the 10 finalists for the fourth UNCTAD Empretec Women in Business Award (WBA). The awards have been presented every two years since 2008. This year was particularly competitive, as more than 100 nominations were received.

The 2014 finalists are (in alphabetical order by country):

Lorena Maria Eugenia Picasso, (Argentina): manufactures innovative educational games to stimulate the development of cognitive, motor, emotional and social abilities as well as therapeutic products which specialize in rehabilitation.

Kelly Dantas de Vasconcelos, Universidad da Crianca, (Brazil): provides educational services for children, focusing on a teaching methodology which highlights innovation and technology.

Tracy Antoinette Green Douglas, Pandama Retreat, (Guyana): produces a range of fruit wines, fruit soaps and art products using all local resources. It is a place of retreat where the local community and tourists can connect with nature.

Lina Jalil Khalifeh, SheFighter, (Jordan): established the first self-defense studio for women and girls in the Middle East and has a mission to generate awareness and decrease violence towards women.

Maya Sewnath, SSS Furntiure, (Mauritius): manufactures tailor-made wooden furniture using local raw materials and specializes in the wedding and children's market.

Lara Cookey, Contextplay Matrix Ltd., (Nigeria): designs educational toys and recreational tools for early child development, including learning materials, playground equipment and furniture.

Thiane Diagne, JOUR J Couture, (Senegal): creates prêt-a-porter luxury clothing lines, which combine traditional Senegalese culture with innovative, high-quality designs.

Renay van der Berg, ProComm, (South Africa): specializes in a range of integrated business services, including brand management, to allow enterprises to be sustainable.

Angelica M Rumsey, Angel Bites Ltd, (Zambia): manages the packaging and trading of dried foods that are a delicacy in Zambia and focuses on high hygiene and quality standards.

Divine Ndhlukula, SECURICO Security Services, (Zimbabwe): is a leading supplier of security solutions in Zimbabwe, including electronic security system installation, guarding, cash management and private investigation services.

The final three winners will be announced during UNCTAD's World Investment Forum which will take place from 13 to 16 October 2014 in Geneva. To mark the theme of this year's Forum – "Investing in Sustainable Development" – two additional candidates were announced, who will receive a special recognition for their work as social and green entrepreneurs, respectively:

Special Recognition, Social entrepreneurship:
Leena A. Irshaid, Renas Women Association, (Jordan): established the only pickling factory in Jordan that is founded, owned and managed by women. It mobilizes unemployed female agricultural engineers by training and hiring them.
Special Recognition, Green entrepreneurship:
Pabla Anabela Torres, BioPro, (Argentina): start-up company which researches, develops, produces and markets organic products designed for crop protection and pest control, including a bio-pesticide.