Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Entrepreneurs have a mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change. – J. GREGORY DEES

Fanta Traore, ALA’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow spent time with young entrepreneurs who seek to see the possibilities and create opportunities for change in their respective communities. She answers questions and reflects on the time she spent with the Anzisha Fellows over Anzisha Week in November. In that week, she learned a few interesting things about the future of youth entrepreneurship in Africa.

What does youth entrepreneurship mean to you?

Youth entrepreneurship is the future of Africa. Youth who start their own initiatives and do not wait for permission to do so are an inspiration to their peers and are also visionaries.

Why do you think it is important to invest in youth entrepreneurship?

Unemployment is high across for the continent for youth, and youth are not afraid to employ each other. Also, youth entrepreneurs are the representative of the future. Investing in their skill development is indicative of where a country is going. We must invest if we want to see the continent move towards a positive direction.

With the number of youth entrepreneurs in Africa on the rise, what are the biggest challenges they face?

The biggest challenges they face are access to capital, inspiration and supportive institutions/infrastructure. A young person with little access to capital due to restrictions such as age barriers, will be discouraged to start a business. Next, there are many young people with brilliant ideas and unfortunately the images of success they are exposed to are those leaders who did not obtain finances through integrity. It is important that youth are exposed to young people who are doing transformative work to sustain themselves and individuals in their communities so that they can be inspired to do the same. Lastly, it is the policies and lack of infrastructure in many of our countries that makes it difficult for a young person to protect their brand/business and maximize their impact.

You recently met 11 promising entrepreneurs – what about their ventures excited you the most?

What excites me is the ongoing support that I know they will get going forward to ensure they scale and expand their business through the Anzisha Prize as well as the other programs they will seek out. I am also excited by the cohort’s dedication to communicating after their week at the African Leadership Academy. They are very interested in working with each other and pushing the success of each other’s businesses through working as partners.

In your opinion, what industries could use more young people starting up businesses?

I think the agricultural field could use more young people. We need to improve quality of life on the continent by ensuring everyone has access to food at a cheap rate, followed by access to electricity. Everyone needs to eat and electricity will help us to have access to innovative solutions on the continent such as SMS technologies, and so forth.

You are part of the Anzisha Prize team at African Leadership Academy that recently hosted the Anzisha Prize Gala. What was your highlight at this event?

My highlight was when all the finalists were celebrated and given the moment to pitch to the various guests who attended at their table. People came to see them, and hear about the phenomenal work they were doing and that was made clear during the expo portion as individuals learned about the work they were doing and connected with them.

What was the significance of hosting this event during Global Entrepreneurship Week?

Hosting during GEW is Anzisha saying to the world, young Africans are here too – making power moves. We are no longer sitting on the sidelines and refuse to. We are young, we are innovative and we are coming up with our own solutions.

What can be done to support young entrepreneurs?

Young entrepreneurs need:

1) More investment in their businesses

2) People to trust them to do business with them

3) More publicity

4) Mentorship

The talent I worked with this past week was phenomenal. Their course and journey has now changed and has been accelerated because they are now known and recognized for the amazing work they are doing.  This has opened up doors to being connected with investors and to African mentors in their field. All of this is great! However, it’s crucial that we trust them and start doing business with them. That makes a louder statement than anything we can say about “supporting youth entrepreneurship.”

What have you learnt after being around these remarkable people over the past week?

I learned the importance of pursuing what we are uniquely positioned to serve the members of our communities in, having a limitless vision and belief in one’s self and ideas. This was coupled with their belief in doing what sets them apart from someone who stagnantly  waits for a change to happen.

Any advice you would like to share with young Africans seeking to start their own businesses?

My advice for young Africans seeking to start their own businesses, or initiatives is to behave like an entrepreneur. What I mean by that is to start Doing. You have ideas? Act on them. Move with the end in mind. Know what you want to achieve. What is your idea? What is your greater vision? Work towards achieving your idea every day and make sure this idea is something that gives you chills and keeps you up working at night. Look for mentors and let other young African entrepreneurs stories inspire you. Ubuntu – means I am because you are. In relation to entrepreneurship: YOU can because they have.


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