Dr. Charles Akhimien is a Global Entrepreneurship Week Ambassador in support of the #GEWyouth global theme, and in partnership with Decent Jobs for Youth and the 2018 YES Forum, held in Dakar, Senegal.
Today’s young generation has a substantial potential to accelerate social development and impact the lives and working conditions of their peers. Taking up entrepreneurial activities is a pathway to achieving both – triggering social change along with tackling the youth employment challenge, both the quality and quantity of jobs. In developing economies, where the majority of the world’s 1.2 billon young people between 15 and 24 years lives1, challenges encountered by governments make local innovations and entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges all the more important.
To combine making profit with creating social changes is at the core of social entrepreneurship – this is what I believe can eventually change the fate of developing countries. Social entrepreneurs who have identified a grievance and develop an innovative solution will not only create a job and make a profit for themselves but make a significant difference for their societies while expanding and developing their business sustainably.
There are no doubts about the benefits of youth entrepreneurship. What is of key importance, is inspiring and guiding young people who are still undecided whether to embark on what literally is the crazy ride of entrepreneurship, as well as accelerating the support for those with their own ventures.
But we need to go beyond inspiring and guiding. When starting off as an entrepreneur, I had to use my savings in lack of seed funding. And when I finally received grants, they came from abroad. Policy makers in West Africa need to do better in this regard. Local access to funding must be facilitated and the business ecosystems strengthened. It is essential to publicly hear the voice of youth and to sit at the same table with support organizations and decision makers. This is what the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth is about. Decent Jobs for Youth is the global initiative to scale up action and impact on youth employment under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The actions of this alliance of partners focus on some of today’s most pressing challenges faced by young people in the world of work, including on supporting youth to succeed in business. That’s what the Youth Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment (YES) Forum will be all about: bringing key actors together to share their experiences to understand each other better. We as entrepreneurs have requests to policymakers; we want them to understand what happens on the ground. But what we need is a two-way dialogue. At the YES Forum, those who know the challenges of entrepreneurship and those who have the ability to provide support will interact. This inclusive approach of the Global Initiative is key to make entrepreneurship work for job creation and social development.
1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advanced Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248 (New York, 2017).