New Southern Africa alliance helps young entrepreneurs

Members of the inaugural Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Southern Africa (CAYE-SA) Executive Committee

Mercy Zulu, 25, is a Commonwealth correspondent from Lusaka in Zambia. In 2016, she wrote about joblessness amongst millennials in her country, and the need for Zambia to be more entrepreneurial.

Ms Zulu wrote: “According to a 2016 GIIN report, out of an estimated USD 8 billion impact capital in-flows to Southern Africa, approximately 85 per cent was absorbed by South Africa while Zambia absorbed less than 12 per cent. Investment is beginning to play a different tune, and Zambian entrepreneurs must not delay joining the dance.”

She went on to say that for Zambia to catch up and thrive, two things must happen: “Government must provide and effectively implement good policies that create an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship” and “the private sector must cooperate and collaborate towards this goal”.

Collaboration is at the heart of the Commonwealth. So there was good news for Ms Zulu and her fellow Zambians in 2016. That year, young business leaders from seven countries in southern Africa agreed to establish a new Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs. Its purpose would be to promote entrepreneurship and trade across the region.

The decision to form the alliance came in April, at a workshop in Windhoek, Namibia. The Commonwealth Secretariat organised the workshop for representatives of national youth entrepreneurship organisations from BotswanaLesothoMalawiNamibiaSouth AfricaSwaziland and Zambia.

The alliance supports young African entrepreneurs as they seek to boost youth employment, contribute to trade and support the Sustainable Development Goals. It recognises that young people play an important role in wealth creation and poverty reduction.

Katherine Ellis, former Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, commented on the new Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Southern Africa (CAYE-SA). She stated that it will play a role in building human capital, unleashing the economic potential of young people, and promoting sustainable growth and development.

“As well as driving trade within and across borders, this new coalition will give the young entrepreneurs a voice with policy-makers to enhance the youth entrepreneurship environment, and a peer network for support and sharing of experiences and good practice,” she said.

This new coalition will give the young entrepreneurs a voice with policy-makers to enhance the youth entrepreneurship environment.

Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat

“The Southern Africa region has so many passionate and talented young entrepreneurs, all hungry to grow their businesses and contribute to their countries’ prosperity,” Ms Ellis added.

Lynette Ntuli, founder of IgniteSA, a youth entrepreneurship organisation from South Africa, who was appointed Interim Chair of the Alliance, said: “It is an honour to be selected by my peers to lead the interim board as we prepare to get on with the critical work of co-ordinating and collaborating on entrepreneurial development programmes and enterprises.

“It is my hope that the work we have set out to achieve will gain traction and make the necessary impact for the greater good of both our economies and the young entrepreneurs who operate within them.”

The move to establish the new association followed the establishment of CAYEs in Asia, the Caribbean and East Africa, all with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat. Leaders from these associations assisted with the workshop in Namibia, sharing their experiences with the young entrepreneurs from southern Africa.

In many countries across the southern Africa region, young entrepreneurs have limited access to capital, lack skills and experience, and have limited exposure to business networks.

Mfundo Mohammed, the Interim Deputy Chair of the Innovators Association of Swaziland, said: “Young entrepreneurs face serious challenges when trying to pursue their ideas and start up successful businesses. CAYE-SA is a great chance for us to network, learn from each other, and collaborate, in an effort to achieve real progress in youth entrepreneurship and innovation in Southern Africa.” 

0 of our African countries

created policies to help young entrepreneurs

More progress with employment and entrepreneurship, 2015-2017

In 2016/17, the CAYE facilitated youth entrepreneurship policy workshops using the Commonwealth Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship. These included four sub-regional training sessions in Africa and one in the Pacific.

In the previous financial year, in addition to launching CAYE-SA:

  • we helped set-up CAYE-East Africa in Rwanda
  • CAYE-Asia delivered a regional young entrepreneurs summit in Malaysia
  • we helped establish national networks in Rwanda and Tanzania.

Eight eastern and southern Africa countries initiated policy and institutional reform reviews to bolster youth entrepreneurship. This followed a regional workshop for senior officials from youth, labour and trade ministries, and young entrepreneurs, in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and non-governmental organisations, in Tanzania, May 2016. The reviews were based on the previously launched Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship.

Young Professionals recruited

The Secretariat recruited 22 young professionals from more than 4,000 applicants from across the Commonwealth to work in London for two years under the Secretariat’s new Young Professionals Programme (YPP).

Watch: Commonwealth Young Professionals Programme : 1 year on

In November 2015, we delivered a successful Commonwealth Youth Work Week and Youth Work Awards campaign. It focused on youth workers’ role in peace building and countering violent extremism. We honoured 14 youth workers from 11 countries for their outstanding contributions in these areas.

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development recognised 17 young people from 15 countries. Collectively, these people received £26,000 to support their development projects. The most outstanding leaders honoured were from BangladeshCameroonJamaica and Papua New Guinea.

Working in partnership

Partnership has been key to the youth entrepreneurship work. It includes the development of Policy Guide for Youth Entrepreneurship with UNCTAD. Eight members in eastern and southern Africa use the guide. We also delivered a capacity-building workshop for senior government officials with UNCTAD and the ILO.

In addition, we delivered the 2nd Commonwealth Youth Work Conference in partnership with the Government of South Africa and the University of South Africa.

Importantly, substantive partnerships are increasing between the Secretariat/external partners, and the Commonwealth youth networks. These will continue to grow as they become more robust and established (e.g. Secretariat with the Commonwealth Youth Council for the 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum, and CARICOM with the Commonwealth Regional Youth Council for the Caribbean Region Youth Development Conference).

“CAYE-SA is a great chance for us to network, learn from each other, and collaborate, in an effort to achieve real progress in youth entrepreneurship and innovation in Southern Africa.” – Mfundo Mohammed, the Interim Deputy Chair of the from the Innovators Association of Swaziland