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Initiative: Unleashing African Entrepreneurship


By 2010 Sub-Saharan Africa will be the “youngest” region in the world. Taking into account the limited absorptive capacity of existing formal labour markets in Africa, the promotion of youth entrepreneurship is one of the few feasible options to stimulate the demand side of the labour market and create employment opportunities, both in the informal and formal sector.

This initiative builds on developed and tested methodologies and support services of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Youth Employment Network (YEN, a partnership of UN, ILO, and World Bank). The initiative aims at scaling up YEN and ILO activities in alignment with national policies and priorities.


The objective of the entrepreneurship initiative is:

  • To contribute to the creation of decent work for young Africans, both as a means of self-employment and as job creation for others

The initiative will help create thousands of jobs, and if successful make a contribution to the development of more effective policies and interventions in support of entrepreneurship in Africa.

Strategic approach

The initiative takes the following strategic approach:

  • Building on existing and tested entrepreneurship development tools and a local network of trainers: The initiative will rely on an existing regional network of ILO master trainers in entrepreneurship who are licensed to train local trainers
  • Offering packages of assistance: The entrepreneurship training will be complemented by advisory services, mentorships, as well as access to finance and technology. In order to ensure that assistance is demand-driven and sustainable, training needs will be identified based on market analysis and value chain approaches
  • Developing the market for business services: All enterprise support services will be provided through existing local service providers, such as business associations and private consultancy firms. These organisations will receive support to become effective training providers. They will charge fees to clients, potential young entrepreneurs, from the start of the initiative. The multiple partner structure enhances competition among training providers and enhances the sustainability of the initiative
  • Facilitating youth participation: Youth will be encouraged to contribute to the initiative. A competitive grant scheme will invite youth-led organisations to submit innovative projects on entrepreneurship promotion. Based on the findings of programme evaluations and youth business climate surveys, training will be given to youth organisations on how to do evidence-based advocacy on youth employment
  • Making synergies work: Cross-country cooperation of policy makers and training providers will facilitate sharing of good practices in youth entrepreneurship
  • Targeting different groups of young people: In order to reach out to a large number of potential and existing youth entrepreneurs, it is essential to target necessity-driven youth entrepreneurs, such as “survivalist start-ups” in the informal sector, as well as opportunity-driven SMEs with high potential for creating additional employment in the formal sector
  • Adopting a regional focus: In order to maximise the impact of the initiative, it will be launched initially in three countries. The criteria for selection, which will need to be further elaborated, might include whether the countries prioritise youth employment, and are willing to set up or have in place national structures that could manage the activities


The initiative will operate with the following activities:

  1. Training and assisting entrepreneurs: Local providers will offer training and complementary support services to young men and women in both rural and urban areas. Well-tested entrepreneur training products used by the local providers are ILO’s “Generate your business idea”, “Start Your Business”, “Improve Your Business”, “Expand Your Business” and “GET Ahead for Women in Enterprise”, which have been used in some ninety countries world-wide and are available in Swahili
  2. Embedding entrepreneurship education in the school system: Entrepreneurship education courses will become an integral part of the teaching in schools, vocational training institutions, and in higher education. The main product will be the ILO’s “Know About Business” being used in the education systems of thirty-five developing countries. Since the late 90s, more than half a million students have received such entrepreneur-ship education
  3. Runningbusinessplancompetitions as a tool to promote an enterprise culture and to identify growth-oriented young entrepreneurs
  4. Access to finance for young entrepreneurs: Access to finance for small start-ups in both urban and rural areas will preferably, be provided through existing micro-finance institutions
  5. Strengthening evidence-based advocacy:
    1. Evaluation of results: Support to undertake impact assessments comparing the results of programme participants with comparison groups of youth that do not participate. Results will be shared through the world-wide youth employment inventory of the World Bank, which provides empirical data for policy makers on the effectiveness of youth employment programmes set up with financial support from YEN
    2. Youth Business Climate Surveys: These surveys will show what the specific barriers are for youth entrepreneurs and what they think about the support programmes available. The initiative will support dissemination of the results of the youth business climate surveys through meetings with policy makers and via mass media.
    3. Youth Capacity Development: The initiative will strengthen youth groups to become stronger advocates for youth entrepreneurship
  6. Youth Opportunities Fund: A competitive grant scheme for youth-led organisations on youth entrepreneurship will be launched, targeting intermediaries like youth NGOs. The best projects will receive an award in the form of a grant to help bring their projects to fruition. The fund is a tool to identify innovations and to facilitate youth participation. This component can build on a similar fund run by YEN for youth NGOs in West Africa

Expected output

  • 550,000 in-school youth will receive entrepreneurship education
  • 80,000 out-of-school youth will get entrepreneurship training and support
  • 40,000 new jobs will have been created and 20,000 new businesses will have started

Setup (management and organisation)

The ILO and YEN will be responsible for the overall coordination and effective implementation of the initiative. ILO will run the activities 1 to 4, while YEN will manage activities 5 and 6.

In order to maximise outreach, the initiative will have a multiple-partner structure working with the following groups of local organisations:

  • private consultancy firms and training providers
  • chambers of commerce, employers’ federations, and sectoral business associations
  • youth NGOs
    government training and business promotion agencies and universities
  • commercialbanks,micro-finance institutions

Other important key stakeholders to cooperate with are:

  • mass media, especially for the business plan competitions
  • private companies in their role as sponsors and mentors
  • national governments, especially labour and employment ministries, and regional bodies, such as the East Africa Community, to exercise an advocacy role.

Overall budget

It is expected that the overall budget of the initiative will amount to USD 40 million, out of which 10 million would be reserved for access to finance and possibly sponsored outside the initiative. The lead agencies of the initiative are committed to raise additional funding from other public and private stakeholders.

Process Action Plan
May – July
Consultations with potential
local partners
July – Sep
Finalisation of programme
Sep 2009: Final programme documentation
and signing of agreement with
lead agencies
Jan 2010: Programme starts

This page forms part of the publication 'Realising the Potential of Africa’s Youth' as chapter 18 of 25
Version 1.0. 09-06-2009
Publication may be found at the address


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