Category Archives: Building Bridges

Malawi’s Future is in the Hands of the Youth Entrepreneurs

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-34-34-pmMalawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is worsening. Malawians are struggling to earn enough money to feed their families and two years of poor harvests means that people are hungry. There’s no welfare state, so earning a living is vital for survival.

To make matters worse, Malawi also faces a serious youth unemployment crisis and the highest working poverty rate in the world. According to a report of the National Statistical Office and ILO, in 2013 only 11.3% of the working population was in formal employment, and the figures for those under 35 are worse.

A large part of the population is left to fend for themselves with over 54% being self-employed. But what are the lived realities? The Building Bridges Foundation team discovered on the road in Malawi that there is hope for the landlocked “Warm Heart of Africa”.

The Road to Nairobi 2016 bus traveled around Malawi to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a range of sectors in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their experiences as entrepreneurs in one of the world’s most disadvantaged countries.

We met youth involved in fashion, improved seeds generation, water pipe construction and much more. These entrepreneurs proved to be change makers in Malawi who are not just creating employment for themselves, but also for others despite all the challenges they face.

Extensive power cuts, little education, corruption, lack of access to funding as well as scarcity of incubators and mentorship programs all hinder growth and sustainability. In the MY World survey, young Malawians expressed that education, healthcare, better job opportunities, affordable and nutritious food and access to clean water and sanitation are their top five concerns. The Malawian youth entrepreneurs we met were not only concerned with earning their own living, but especially with changing society and Malawi’s situation.

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“My vision is to give a future to those most in doubt and nurture them so that they do not merely become another statistic of African hardship and suffering,” said 15-year old Tawile. She expresses her feelings and hopes for the future through fashion and aims to unite Africa.

Other entrepreneurs are focusing on the challenges faced by Malawian girls such as child marriage, lack of education and sexual abuse. “Women are nurturing and can use that ability to take care of the economic situation in their home, community and country. They need to be empowered and inspired.”

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“The future of each and every nation is in the youth and entrepreneurship is the best way to go,” said Alexious. Young Malawian entrepreneurs should be empowered and supported as they are providing solutions for the country. To ensure youth are not discouraged and continue to change their circumstances, it’s important to understand the lived experiences. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs in Malawi and asked what changes they would like to see:

  • Tadala T: Provide resources, information and opportunities on a merit basis, not because of who you know or what political affiliations you have.
  • Dumisani: Change the mindset of young people and the syndrome of dependency.
  • Ahmed: There needs to a better information system accessible everywhere where people can find all information related to entrepreneurship.
  • Alexious: Entrepreneurship should be part of the curriculum. It should be supported so that the youth are empowered.

Author: Charles Lipenga (Youth Ambassador Road to Nairobi project). Edited by: Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) & Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation)

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Harnessing Youth Entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe: Key to a Better Future

Entrepreneurship is the key driving tool for most African economies. It facilitates effective economic growth and development for enhanced sustainability. Most young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who strive to see a better Zimbabwe in the near future have taken this to heart.

The youth peak bulge has not spared Zimbabwe, as estimates reflect that it is probable that 60% of Zimbabwe’s national population is under the age of 30. Like many other young people in Africa, Zimbabwean youth have been challenged by the predicament of high unemployment rates and limited civic engagement opportunities, amongst other adversities.

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The informal sector dominates the Zimbabwean economy. More youth are now entering the scene with hopes of economic survival, yet the job market is not opening up enough opportunities for them. This has been lamented by many youth entrepreneurs. Despite many of them having received a good education, some are still unable to find stable, formal jobs.

Most universities are churning out more graduates than the economy can sustainably accommodate in its current state. However, many of the schools are also channeling out students who have more book knowledge than the technical skills required for self-sufficiency in the current market.

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The MY World global survey shows that in Zimbabwe most people want a good education. The sampled entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe reinforced this. They want to see an education system which explores more and delves deeper into instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in its curriculum. They wish to have an education system which is not over-reliant on job acquisition immediately following graduation, but one that instead focuses on acquiring a set of business skills which will help in the development and sustenance of entrepreneurial ventures. It is with this notion that the entrepreneurial spirit could be embraced and fueled by graduates, or within the universities’ immediate communities.

The exact unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently unknown, but estimates as high as 95% have been calculated for the country. Youths face an uncertain future, but for many of them hope has been rekindled with the surge of entrepreneurial ventures. The hope is to create self-employment opportunities that will lead to a constant revenue flow, allowing sustainability in line with household expectations.

The Building Bridges’ Road to Nairobi 2016 project seeks to harness the spirit of entrepreneurship within all youth to inspire hope for the future, in which effective growth and sustenance is in reach.

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Zimbabwean youth entrepreneurs face a range of challenges such as lack of financial assistance and restrictive government regulations on company registration. These difficulties hinder them from seeing their dreams as viable ventures.

Despite the many struggles that youth encounter along the way in changing the current economic landscape, they continue to shed light on the hope that entrepreneurship is key to a better future. From the exuberant energy exhibited by most entrepreneurs, it has been established that youth have the innovation and energy that is required to drive successful enterprises and entrepreneurial ventures

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Youth are characterized as vibrant, go-getters and enthusiastic, and such energy if well applied, will lead into the successful implementation of the SDGs. Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are working on challenges they identify in their communities, such as the lack of access to basic education, unaffordable healthcare, health problems due to poor cooking fuels and many more.  

The future is in the hands of youth who define and map the journey that lies ahead. It is with this notion that youth could be effectively equipped with the necessary business skills to be the ones to see through the successful implementation of the SDGs.

These are a few of the solutions to improve the entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth in Zimbabwe deduced from the hearts and minds of the surveyed entrepreneurs:

  • Terrence: Government should create an enabling environment, incentivize people through the creation of funding structures, and build a strong database for youth entrepreneurs to access mentorship who will oversee the successful running of the businesses.
  • Candice: Youth should be made aware of the beauty of entrepreneurship. People have great ideas but they can’t develop them without assistance.
  • Shaun: Government could have proxies in youth businesses to ensure that they are run sustainably. This way you can give funds and ensure they will be paid back.
  • Tinashe: Entrepreneurship should be made part of the curriculum. The youth needs to get inspired, motivated.
  • Tichaona: We need a hub for entrepreneurs. We need IT skills and to make changes through technology.
  •  Chiedza: We need a transparent government where ministers are held accountable. They should focus on advancement of the country rather than how much they can make by helping you.

Author: Kudzanai Chimhanda (Country Team Zimbabwe of the the Building Bridges Foundation)

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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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Building Bridges Road to Nairobi meets youth entrepreneurs across South Africa

The Building Bridges Foundation has completed traveling through South Africa, its first country on the Road to Nairobi. With its mission to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the team met with over a hundred youth entrepreneurs across the country. The Foundation’s seeks to learn from grassroots youth entrepreneurs to to understand their day-to-day challenges and how these entrepreneurs have thus far managed to overcome them. 

Samantha Ndiwalana, Building Bridges Project Manager, and Annemarelle van Schayik, Building Bridges Research Manager, report back on the team’s journey through South Africa.


IMG_20160906_142901.jpgThe Building Bridges core team in front of their bus

“African problems, need African solutions” – some South African youth have taken this approach to heart and are fighting for a better future every day. In South Africa there are more than 19 million young people between the ages of 15 and 34 (as defined by South Africa’s National Youth Policy), that is 42% of the population.

Strikingly, among the 9.8 million youth in South Africa’s labour force only 6.2 million were employed and more than 3.6 million youth were unemployed in 2015, with unemployment being especially high for those residing in rural areas. However, most people cannot afford to be unemployed due to the lack of significant safety nets and the responsibility to care for their families.

IMG_20160907_175928.jpgThe Building Bridges team visiting a young poultry farmer in Vredeford

Today’s South African youth were born in the last years of, or just after, Apartheid. Since then regardless of race, color or gender all youth should have the same access to resources and opportunities in theory. However, the lived reality is that black South Africans struggle more than white South Africans, not necessarily solely because of race, but also because of a different upbringing and exposure from a young age.

According to one black youth entrepreneur, “white people have more social capital. At home you can talk about having a business and your parents can introduce you to people who can help you. Most black people don’t have that.”

14053918_1766289320279392_1969452852959175315_o.jpgThe Building Bridges team meets the young entrepreneur behind Sisanda Energy Lab

The MY World global survey led by the UN SDG Action Campaign shows that in South Africa most people want “A good education”. In the past years, thousands of youth have gone onto the streets to stop university tuition fee increases and instead are demanding free education. In a country where many black South Africans are the first of their generation to enter university, keeping up with fees and other university expenses is a challenge. Many drop out before graduating due to “financial exclusion”. Still, a future without a university diploma is seen as one of insecurity and poverty.

South African youth’s priority is not only education, they are also concerned with being taught the skills that will enable them to succeed. “We don’t learn practical skills. There is no talk about running a business up till high school. How can we take care of ourselves?”, remarked one youth.

Youth who drop out of university or do not continue after high school should have learned skills to create a better life for themselves than their parents had. Youth are the future and they all should be given the tools to contribute to a better future for themselves, their communities and South Africa as a whole.

Entrepreneurial innovations should be encouraged from a young age. Schools play a fundamental role in this. A white-collar job is not the only path to success and wealth. As skills training goes underutilized, there are opportunities for individuals with, for example, artisan, technical, electronic or plumbing training. There are many self-employment opportunities in these fields. In fact, South Africa is in need of local entrepreneurs who can create sustainable businesses.

13975260_1765539727021018_91416547130337434_o.jpgThe team meets with youth entrepreneurs in Kwaggafontein

South African youth have great potential to innovate, to change, to create solutions. Of course, being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but those who have the passion and the drive can potentially learn the skills. Their success is not just on the individual level. It carries through their communities and their nation as they employ other youth.

Youth entrepreneurs not only address issues of decent employment opportunities, but also other striking local problems. Youth are drivers of innovation. On their journey through South Africa the Building Bridges team met, among others, innovative youth who are working on hydroponic farming, an interactive, but informative game about energy and how to handle, a cheaper medical insurance solution for uninsured South Africans.

Youth entrepreneurs are the future. But before changes can be made, we need to understand what the lived experiences of South African youth are and what can be done to enable them to succeed.

IMG_20160907_175938.jpgA Building Bridges event with various youth entrepreneurs in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga

Besides a pressing lack of business education from a young age and role models, many black youth entrepreneurs found the access to business registration lacking. We were told time after time that the decentralized government system is confusing and that the entrepreneurs wasted time being sent back and forth from office to office. Others were unemployed and had difficulty paying the needed business registration fees.

One youth entrepreneur stated, “there are a lot of young people who have ideas; they’re really strong ideas that are so powerful. The problem is, you are unemployed, but you’ve been told to open a bank account it is R500 (US$35.28), you’ve been told that to register a company it’s R400(US$28.22), your certificates that you needed, your BEE and your other certificates are quite expensive. And you are unemployed.”

Those that succeeded then found it difficult to get the startup capital needed. They were seen as risks by the banks and government funding was often unavailable for their type of business. However, besides lacking capital, many entrepreneurs also face negative feedback from their communities. Whole families depend on their income. Brothers’ tuition fees, sisters’ mobile data, and of course there needs to be food on the table. Working from 8 to 5 means a stable income and is the desired path by the wider community. All odds are against the young South African entrepreneur to succeed.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 14.27.37.pngYouth entrepreneurs from South Africa

So what can be done? Building Bridges asked the youth entrepreneurs themselves. After all they are the experts:

  • Innocentia: “We need to change how things are run. The government offices should guide entrepreneurs. They should be people who are passionate, who care.”
  • Joyce: “The government can subsidize [registration costs]. It is expensive for an unemployed person to pay and there are a lot of procedures.”
  • Xola: “We need an entrepreneurial culture, a critical mass. We need more black entrepreneurial heroes. Youth need to be able to identify with people who are like them.”
  • Vusumuzi: “Banks can create a different loan system. They should invest in the youth.”
  • Major: “We need practical things when going to programs and incubators. The people presenting don’t understand what we go through. They are not entrepreneurs. We should learn from entrepreneurs.”

 

Building Bridges the Road to Nairobi launches on International Youth Day

Road to nairobi-logo (2)The Building Bridges Foundation’s Road to Nairobi 2016 project kicked off on International Youth Day, 12 August 2016, in Johannesburg and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Building Bridges Foundation is a not-for-profit organization established in the Netherlands. The mission is to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In their first project last year, the Foundation collected the opinions and priorities from young people by bike riding from Amsterdam to Cape Town in an effort to include youth voices in the development of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

In this second phase, the Road to Nairobi 2016a team of Dutch and South African youth will travel by bus from Johannesburg to Nairobi, meeting 80 inspirational and innovative youth entrepreneurs from all industries and walks of life in eight countries. In each country, these real life case studies of the challenges youth entrepreneurs face will be presented to government officials, CEOs, foreign ambassadors, representatives of the UN and the media during a youth summit in the capital. The project co-creates solutions that promote youth employment and aims to inspire African and global leaders by showcasing how young people are making a difference, and how their work can be further promoted to help achieve the SDGs by 2030. The results will be presented at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Nairobi in December.

Building Bridges bus, which will carry the team and youth entrepreneurs to the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi

“Young people often have the best out of the box solutions for difficult problems. So if we want a better life for unemployed young Africans, who else to ask then young African entrepreneurs.” said Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen. She continued, “they show that starting your own business empowers and creates jobs and income. The Road to Nairobi brings these smart youngsters together with politicians and business leaders who are eager for innovative and smart solutions. To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, young people are key.” Minister Ploumen supports the project in her role as co-chair of the GPEDC.

Through a series of multi-stakeholder events at the local and national levels, the project will help facilitate the co-creation of solutions and actions to promote youth employment in their respective countries. “We believe that only by working together with all stakeholders, can we achieve a more just, sustainable and equal world by 2030,” says Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation. “Youth are traditionally seen as a problem, but we believe they are the solution. There are many youth entrepreneurs with innovative businesses solutions to overcome local challenges. We need to listen to their ideas, and help them grow to scale to create real impact for people on the ground.”

The Project was launched in South Africa in the Diepsloot Township jointly with the Building Bridges Team and the Dutch Embassy in South Africa. Focus on youth entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, the launch included a panel discussion, about the enabling factors for innovative entrepreneurship and the necessary steps that will allow South African entrepreneurs to benefit from increased globalization.

IMG_2163The Road to Nairobi launch in Johannesburg with the Building Bridges team and the Dutch Ambassador in South Africa, H.E. Marisa Gerards

In addition to the project’s launch in South Africa, the project was ceremoniously launched at the SDGs exhibition in the United Nations Visitors Lobby by H.E. Mr. Karel van Oosterom, the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN and the UN SDG Action Campaign. The Ambassador toured the exhibition, seeing the enormous influence the first phase of Building Bridges had in collecting people’s voices to support the development of the SDGs. HE van Oosterom then viewed the current platforms for action, taking the MY World 2030 Survey reading the Humans if MY World stories and experiencing UN Virtual Reality. The visit concluded with a live video chat with the Building Bridges Team in South Africa, providing words of encouragement for their journey to foster youth employment on the African continent.

IMG_0051.jpgThe Road to Nairobi launch at the UN HQ with the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Karel van Oosterom

The Ambassador, his son as well as a team from the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN and the SDG Action Campaign wrote their good wishes to the Building Bridges Team on the large sized exhibition blackboard. In a statement on the occasion of the virtual launch in New York the Ambassador said, “youth must have a central role in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope projects like this inspire other youth to step up and help realize the Sustainable Development Goals.”

IMG_20160812_121005Ambassador Karel van Oosterom’s good wishes to Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation, and part of the Road to Nairobi team

Kristin Gutekunst, UN SDG Action Campaign Project Manager, remarked, “we are excited to be partnering with the Building Bridges Foundation and the Government of the Netherlands to continue SDG momentum in this new phase of the Building Bridges project. Young people are integral to making the SDGs a reality for all by 2030. The MY World 2015 Survey identified Better job opportunities as one of the main priorities for youth globally. Advancing youth entrepreneurship through this project and bringing people’s voices to the United Nations will support us in achieving the SDGs.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 17.29.40The Road to Nairobi’s route across 8 countries

The Building Bridges team operates with the idea there is a gap between between local and international policymakers and the challenges faced by young people at the grassroots level. Simultaneously in New York, Building Bridges Representative and UN SDG Action Campaign Youth Advocate Jonas Lossau introduced the Road to Nairobi 2016 project and how it contributes to ‘17 SDGs in Action’ at the UN Headquarters on International Youth Day. Samantha Ndiwalana, a Building Bridges Project Manager, added, “the project is a way for young people to get together, to learn from each other, to share their solutions and to inspire each other. It is time for real action, not empty words.”

To create real changes, the Building Bridges team together with the most inspiring youth entrepreneurs will present their data and suggest solutions at the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi.

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