Poonam had just dreamed up the idea of creating access to markets for products made by young entrepreneurs by certifying them “YouthTrade” and getting them shelf space in Fortune 500 retailers. Meanwhile, Frannie was deeply engaged in building capacity in African countries to promote youth leadership and entrepreneurship.
Our goals were bound to intersect. And, thus, “YouthTrade Nigeria” was born. The project is scheduled to become operational in July this year.
About 80% of youth businesses fail within the first few years – most of them due to lack of access to markets. YouthTrade is creating an inspiring architecture to promote entrepreneurship by placing products in markets and creating demand through new YouthTrade Clubs. It is also creating solidarity among stakeholders by creating YouthTrade Councils in each country.
Meanwhile, Poonam’s team launched YouthTrade in the US on 21 May 2012, certifying 30 US youth entrepreneurs and winning placement of their products in 28 Whole Foods Market North Atlantic Region stores.
Youth unemployment has been a top agenda item in many countries following the Arab Spring. African Capacity Building Foundation has been following with interest the self-employment and export opportunities in sectors such as the arts and personal care. Branding creative products can provide jobs for talented youth.
The search for job-generating ideas has gone global with the launch of initiatives, such as the Youth Employment Inventory, by other Council Members who have been sharing ideas and knowledge on how to create jobs.
Countries have not been slow to take up the challenge either, working across borders to share ideas on how to create jobs, as in the recently-concluded AU-EU Partnership Summit.
But the one idea that tops all, in our view, is that young people can create products and services and sell them to each other, creating not only jobs but also new markets and consumers. Such initiatives have fired the imagination of bigger businesses. For example, one gave space for young women to sell their products at the recent AGOA Forum.
Authors: Frannie A. Léautier, Executive Secretary, African Capacity Building Foundation and Poonam Ahluwalia, President, Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability.
Pictured: People crowd a street in Balogun market, in the central business district of Lagos, Nigeria. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye