Geographies in Depth

Unleashing African entrepreneurial success

Ashish J. Thakkar
Group Chief Executive Officer, Y9
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Often I am disturbed when I read the latest unemployment statistics and forecasts for job creation. Global unemployment is currently 200 million people. The international unemployment statistic remains pervasive and systemic, and over the next 10 years the global community will need to create 600 million productive jobs in order to keep pace with the demand for gainful employment.

I grew up in the United Kingdom, Rwanda and Uganda, which afforded me a diverse set of opportunities throughout my youth. I started my first business at the age of 15 and, in as many years, I have grown the Mara Group to employ 7,000 people across 26 countries. I am humbled by my seeming success thus far and often question why my story and entrepreneurial path are not routine for African youth. I believe that all young people should have an opportunity to start and grow profitable businesses. Entrepreneurship was the key that unlocked so many doors for me.

Globally, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are driving economies, significantly contributing to many countries’ GDP and employing millions. The world needs to ensure that SMEs have steady revenue, growth and profits so that they are in a position to continue hiring while maintaining their workforces. So how can multinationals and large corporations unlock new global ecosystems in which SMEs can continue to drive the economy and gainfully employ millions? I believe the answer is a social movement that creates a watchdog monitoring system – “The Enterprise Credit System” – in which multinational and large corporations are required to designate a significant percentage of their annual procurement of goods and services to do business with indigenous African-certified SMEs. This process will ensure ample demand from large corporations for certified SMEs, sustaining jobs that they will create.

How do we get this done? The public must demand that multinationals systematically award procurement contracts to certified SMEs. The public must demand that a watchdog system be formally implemented to encourage the multinationals to comply with the programme. Additionally, global governments must devise a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation and rewards system for the multinationals.

Furthermore, private sector corporations must amend their supply chain to accommodate a percentage of procurement from indigenous SMEs. These SMEs will be subject to a certification process that thereby makes the enterprise eligible for set-aside procurement contracts from multinationals. I believe the impact will be to create millions of jobs over the next decade, wealth creation and economic stability for developing countries and their citizens, and the reduction of unemployment worldwide

Author: Ashish J. Thakkar is Founder and Managing Director, Mara Group, United Arab Emirates.  He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012.

Photo Credit: ValueWeb

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