YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS
VERY CRITICAL FOR OUR ECONOMY
The opportunity to impart knowledge, share my experience and interact closely with our youth has always been something I find exciting and consider invaluable. Knowledge is the greatest gift one can give to another. There is no gift as great as knowledge to mankind and to the world. When people are knowledgeable, they become good entrepreneurs, they do great things for mankind but when people are not informed and do not have knowledge, they go astray.
As a Rotarian, a business person, Kenyan and an African, I am passionate about young people and seeing them thrive in whatever they do. Why? Because I grew up poor. I had no mentors and I literally struggled to get to where I am now, and sometimes I feel I am behind schedule compared to my peers. But well, they say everything happens in its own time.
I come from a family of uneducated people, all we knew is to buy and sell products or offer a service. My grandpa had a posho mill, my grandma was a tailor and also sold flowers to Indian customers. My mum sold hand knitted and crotchet items (remember homemade sweaters scarves, crotchet table clothes, seat covers etc) to survive, and the list is endless regarding my upbringing, that is where I learnt about doing business.
I sold masala sticks and potato crisps in primary school (even though sometimes it would get stolen before I sell!) I sold second hand clothes in high school and university in order to supplement to the income meant to pay for my education and also buy a few luxury items (yes I have always loved luxury items from the time I was a child. I have dreamt of owning them and well what can I say, where there is a will there is a way!)
This reminds me of Will Smith in the movie in Pursuit of Happiness told his son “Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you can’t do something, not even me. You gotta dream, you gotta protect it, go get it, period. This is the same message I would like to emphasize to the youth right now – dream it, believe it and go for it!
Youth entrepreneurship continues to play a vital role in creating opportunity and livelihoods in the future – and that will have beneficial effects for people of all ages and across societies and economies. Did you know today’s generation of adolescents and youth stands at 1.8 billion people – the largest our world has ever seen furthermore most of these young people live in developing countries.
Kenya is a country of the youth according to the 2019 Population and Census results which shows that 75% of the 47.6 million population is under the age of 35. Can you imagine what this means? That the unemployment rate will continue to increase and therefore you must think out of the box, be innovative in creating your own jobs, which will have a ripple effect by creating more jobs leading to poverty eradication and economic growth. The youth are a very important equation in leading this country to the next level, besides the leaders. If you all put down your tools today, as a country we would be destabilized, so do not underestimate your contribution to our communities, our country and the world at large.
One of the critical challenges facing the world today is that unemployment is on the rise and they are fewer jobs in the market place especially for young people. Kenya youth unemployment rate is at 20 % and so entrepreneurship offers the opportunity for you to be employed, create jobs and generate incomes as well as provide solutions to help tackle the various challenges that are inherent in every society. Your idea will solve somebody’s problem somewhere.
Entrepreneurship skills and innovation are strongest among young people; they are change catalysts. Studies indicate that in order to increase success rate for young entrepreneurs they require guidance and funding. As Rotaractors, you are blessed with the opportunity to interact with Rotarians and the Rotary network at large in getting guidance, mentorship that you require to start your entrepreneurship journey, not many people have this opportunity, take advantage and use it to the fullest. Take up internships, volunteer in Rotary activities there is a lot to be learnt there besides discovering your potential ( this is my personal story for another day, on how Rotary gave me the platform to discover my capabilities). I know capital is a challenge, we all struggle with financing for our businesses but you start small, nowadays you have many options to get funding – family & friends, savings from your allowance, banks & other financial lending institutions, you just need to explore, knock on doors, attend forums on matters investments and financing for small businesses. In one of those you will find a solution.
The energy, enthusiasm, and innovation our large youth generation can bring a huge demographic dividend to countries and to our world. It is a fact that young people today are savvier about technology, more knowledgeable about the world around them, and more interconnected that any previous youth generation has been. Yet, as a generation, youth also face high levels of unemployment. While representing only 37 per cent of the global working age population, young people make up sixty per cent of the world’s unemployed. Many people despair of current economic settings and trends generating the hundreds of millions of jobs needed to overcome current levels of unemployment globally and to absorb new entrants to the labour market. But all hope is not lost, the solution to this problem is your hand, heart and mind.
Did you know in developing countries, more than two-thirds of all jobs now originate in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises? Through entrepreneurship, harnessing the energy and innovation of youth, there is an opportunity to lift the quantity and quality of jobs, and to generate inclusive and sustainable growth. We have incubator hubs for the tech youth that you can create your ideas, we have farmlands that create opportunities in agriculture, we have you tube videos that can help us create things in our backyards and bedrooms, the opportunities are endless you just need to be more open minded in ways of creating your own jobs.
As long as you have a good business idea, go for it. Use the resources around you to start something. You must believe in yourself, take the leap of faith and give it your best shot. We all have that voice inside that pushes us to do something but many times we let our fear stop us, learn to overcome your fears by believing in yourself. Of course success is not a guarantee but it is better to have tried and failed than not doing anything and wondering twenty years late what if…
Focus on using your skills and talents to create jobs, to create hope and empower each other to fulfil their God-given potentials. Entrepreneurship can change lives, can change communities, can change nations, but I must tell you that the journey to entrepreneurship is tough, there is no quick fix about it. It is a long journey, sometimes it gets lonely but I promise you it is worth it. You need to dream big, translate your dreams into actions, have a written down plan, give yourself realistic targets and hold yourself accountable, be disciplined but most of all you must be resilient, positively aggressive, hardworking and patient. You will get there like Jack Ma, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, James Mwangi, PDG Eric Kimani, Dr. Manu Chandaria and many other exemplary entrepreneurs that most of us look up to.
May I remind you that Nobody but us will develop Africa. Africa’s destiny lies in the hands of all of us, Africans’ and especially you – young people. Let us stop trying to move to other continents or saying we were born in the wrong continent. Nobody chooses where to be born, but this is where life has found you and what are you doing about it? Are you the change that you want to see in the world?
If we all think like entrepreneurs we can build resilient, competitive and self-reliant economies and in the process, reduce poverty by creating prosperity for the majority by broadening access to opportunities which can drive self-empowerment in a way that does not breed dependency. So let us all rise as youth, change our mind sets and make our lovely country and continent great, make it way better than we found it because living the world a better place than you found it is indeed living a purpose driven life!
~PCC Saum Siraj