Championing Youth Entrepreneurship in Mozambique with Building Bridges

img_2571The Road to Nairobi 2016 Project, with the support of the local World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Hub, traveled around the greater Maputo area to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a variety of sectors, in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their lived experiences. The ventures discovered ranged from a tech startup working on information asymmetry in the labor market, to a design firm which transforms waste into materials for interior design. These individual stories are featured on the Humans of MY World photo-narrative blog.

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The path of an entrepreneur in Mozambique can be difficult and trying at times; a few of the entrepreneurs we met noted how the economic climate is having an impact on their businesses. Even so, some young people are choosing entrepreneurship as an alternative to looking for a job, where they are confronted by a youth unemployment rate estimated at around 80%. The young people who are resilient enough to try youth entrepreneurship need support, role models and an enabling environment. 

Frederico Peres Da Silva, co-founder of a tech startup in Maputo, recognizes the importance of entrepreneurial role models: “If you are in the [United] States, a CEO understands the value of mentoring a startup. You know why? Because he’s heard of Facebook, he’s heard of Snapchat, he’s heard of WhatsApp. He goes, ‘Oh, what if this is the next Facebook?’ To change that perception in Mozambique you need to have a couple of references in the market. You need to have your champions.”

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Graca Machel, SDG Advocate speaks at the Mozambican Building Bridges Forum

Young Mozambicans that have taken to the MY World global survey prioritize good education as one of the key areas where  they hope to see positive improvement. The youth entrepreneurs we met further discussed the current education system and their experiences with it.  However, they are not only focused on education in general, but see the importance of having practical skills and experience in the workplace as the key to success in their entrepreneurial journey.

Lack of technological infrastructure and resources are other challenges to educational access and entrepreneurship in Mozambique. Frederico is using technology to help young unemployed Mozambicans access the job opportunities through their phones.

img_2754Where gaps and challenges exist, young people in Mozambique are stepping up to empowering each other and themselves. Marlene de Souza found that young people were unable to communicate and translate their knowledge into action in the workplace. She started a company which offers training to university students on skills such as how to successfully enter the job market and how to communicate with “attitude,” so that these students can bridge the gap between the academic and labor market.

Diogo Lucas started a business to help SMEs access finance and gave them the tools to mature into sustainable businesses. According to Diogo, this is something SMEs really need: “There are opportunities for small businesses but they’re not developing because there is not enough support, there’s not enough money. Bank finance is hard to come by with all these challenges. When I was travelling across the country I realized that it’s not because they have bad businesses. It’s because people don’t have the skills or the ability to access capital that can help them grow and develop.”

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Sázia Souza runs a company which offers tech solutions to companies and private individuals. Twice a month, she and her team trains children on how to use computers. When asked about her passion for technology and education, Sázia said: “Mozambique has a problem when it comes to using technology. People are not prepared for the future. Technology is growing too fast. When you go to some schools, they don’t even have computer lessons. Even the teachers don’t know how to use the computers.”

Youth entrepreneurs in Mozambique are working to carve a bright future for themselves. They are working together and with other young people to support skills development while growing a culture of entrepreneurship. To help them on this path, it is important to understand the Mozambican context as well as the lived experiences of rural and urban young Mozambicans in order to empower them for success. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs and asked them what changes they would like to see to support youth entrepreneurship in Mozambique:

  • Lineu: More young people need to have the courage to start for themselves. I started with nothing and almost 100% of the people didn’t believe in me.
  • Claudio: When you register a business, you are sent from one place to another. The process will be better when everything is in one place. It should take less time and require fewer documents.
  • Wilton: Government must create conditions for young entrepreneurs to develop businesses. Especially fiscal policy because currently, police doesn’t differentiate between being a young entrepreneur or an old entrepreneur.
  • Sides: We need more incubators with people who have been trained to support youth entrepreneurs.

Authors: Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) and Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation).

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