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Reimagining Education to Foster Entrepreneurial Skills in East Africa’s Youth

Sept 23 2020

On September 9, Asante Africa Foundation hosted a live panel discussion on “Fostering Entrepreneurial Skills in East Africa’s Youth,” a topic that is pertinent today and one that is necessary for facing the educational landscape beyond the COVID-19 realities. 

The World Bank estimates that the global economy needs 600 million new jobs over the next ten years to keep employment constant. 169 million youth, or nearly one third of the working poor in developing countries live below the poverty line. 

With the worldwide pandemic that has increased economic insecurities, it is now important to explore and facilitate skill development in youth that will make them not just able job seekers, but job creators.

The panelists’ discussion centered around various ways to foster entrepreneurial skills in East Africa’s youth. The panel was organized to give us a systemic view of how to reimagine education, including policy, implementation, inclusivity, and the youth analysis. 

panel discussion September 9 2020

Our panelists included a seasoned educator, researcher, gender advocate, and an East African youth. They made a unified call for introducing equitable entrepreneurial and life skills training to youth to ready them to be key players in a dynamic economic market. 

You can watch the panel discussion in its entirety on our YouTube Channel.

OUR PANELISTS

Lucy Maina is a Kenyan based consultant with nearly 20 years experience in the education sector, teaching and running an educational NGO. She advocates for and supports implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for youth. 
In her talk Lucy highlights some of the policy and research and sheds light on the stakeholders and challenges in reimagining education. She calls for a systemic change to advance education to meet the demands of modern problems.
To that end, she calls on institutions to include technical and life skills training to hone youth entrepreneurship in both the formal and informal sector. She states that youth need training to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, create their own products while learning business skills, and need mentorship. 
Lucy concludes that governments can foster entrepreneurship by funding youth initiatives, ensuring that skills training is included in the curriculum, and by including youth voices while designing and implementing policies. 
Abdikadir Ismail has taught in rural Kenya for the last 20 years and is, currently, the Principal of Mwangaza Muslim Day school. He was recognized as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize by the Varkey Foundation and The Game Changer Award. In 2018 Abdi was awarded as Anti-FGM Teacher of the Year in Kenya. 
In his talk, Abdikadir discusses the transformative approaches for building successful youth entrepreneurs. He believes it is necessary to reimagine education and establish a link between academics and livelihoods to bring about “EduPreneurs.” 
Abdikadir believes that every aspect of schools should be a learning experience; schools should be a trial ground, hub for creativity and innovation, and make students world ready. He believes that schools should become problem solving centers through association with after school clubs, partnerships with tech institutions and service providers. This would give students practical experience and cultivate real world partnerships.
Rita Kahurananga has over 15 years management experience and she advocates and works for gender equity and child protection. For her work as the National Director of SOS Children’s Village, Rita was awarded the prestigious Public-Service-Partner-of-the-year award. 
In her presentation, Rita analyzed the critical aspect of how financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills can improve gender parity. Rita states that women are less financially literate, leading to individual, social, and economic abuse. 
To overcome this disparity, Rita suggests that youth, boys and girls, need gender equitable programs, equal opportunity to financial capital, balanced representation in decision making at the family and community level, access to tools and skills, and access to markets.
Dennis Mulondo is a 23 years old student from Makerere University Business School pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Dennis has received several training awards, including Jijali entrepreneurship online course and has gained finance and auditing internship experience at Raising Gabdho Foundation and PKF Uganda. He is a member of the University’s Business School Rotaract club advocating for community service, Leadership, and Networking.
Dennis shares his personal story, successes, and challenges as an East Africa youth Entrepreneur. In his talk, Dennis explored the ways for youth to amplify their voices. He called his fellow youth to action – asking them to use this opportunity to acquire new digital skills, re-strategize, and network. 
He acknowledged that in Africa there is a lack of morale among youth and a wide technological divide. Dennis stated that governments and NGOs have to reimagine education and facilitate and equalize education, have youth friendly policies, and provide resources and opportunities for youth to realize their ideas.

Here are some of the answers to questions that our panelists could not answer due to time constraints.

1) Should we start implementing STEM in the East African school curriculum?

Yes. Some STEM clubs already exist, but this movement needs large scale implementation. We should not look at them as stand alone subjects, but embedded within the curriculum. An example: While setting up a vegetable garden at school, learners will apply STEM practices, combining designing and building. Along the way students will learn STEM content and learn to think in a broader context, like the environmental or social impact.

2) Does financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills correlate?

Yes, they correlate. Financial literacy is a valuable skill for an entrepreneur, however, an entrepreneur needs broader financial management skills to make informed decisions. Youth believe that financial literacy is one of the important skills to achieve success.

3) Some governments mistake Edupreneurship with child labour and misuse of children.

Ensuring that youth understand their personal rights and adults understand the long term value of education is crucial.

4) How do we address duplication of ideas among the youth which at the end reduces profit in the businesses?

Focusing on unmet needs is key – filling the hole vs. growing the pile. One of the biggest things we can do is to help youth understand the business creation process and how to meet unmet needs in a given community. This takes into account not duplicating which creates a saturated market.

5) Our organization (Golden Aya Corp) understands gender inequality in Tanzania. We want to have an all women’s education center in 2022, but we are now reconsidering. We now are thinking of adding young boys and also teaching them about the importance of women empowerment and equality. Is this a good idea?

Building cross-gender alliances is a crucial skill in any career. Involving boys early on helps them become allies for their friends, sister, and mothers. We have engaged boys in all facets of entrepreneurship training and business creation. Our experience indicates that setting up conditions for girls to lead naturally leads to inclusivity, as girls engage boys as team members and are collaborative in the decision-making process

6) What entrepreneurial opportunities are available when the youth have entrepreneurial training?

Numerous opportunities. One of the best tools is the Business Canvas Model tool (free) to help young people determine what the unmet needs are within the community and  look for existing businesses and solutions. It also helps them search for available assets within the community to test out assumptions and launch their ideas. During COVID-19 shutdown, Asante Africa has had 142 students start small businesses to meet unmet needs within their communities.

7) Who exactly needs to put the youth on the table?

Women and men need equal access to the table and each need to speak up for the other. Big bosses need to ensure lower level employees are heard, and adults need to ensure students are at the table. Youth should also be initiating the discussion.

8) The idea of schools becoming incubation centres where children innovate and create ideas is interesting. Apart from parents, who are the other critical stakeholders who should engage in this process? What would be the link for their engagement?

We are actively engaging the older youth (teens and early 20’s) who can mentor and share challenges and experiences with the younger youth. The clubs MUST BE YOUTH-LED and adult supported. We bring in teachers and adults as technical experts – teachers for academics, entrepreneurs for starting businesses, government officials for “working the systems,” and other youth to share what they do to pay it forward

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Written by Sumathi Ramanath