The Prize of Enterprise

Jun 26, 2023

In acknowledgment of the teachers, the volunteers, the staff, and the donors who make Asante Africa’s work possible, and especially in celebration of our young students’ accomplishments, we like to tout success stories. And why not? All of our students in East Africa encounter significant challenges to success; overcoming them deserves trumpeting. As do the many behind-the-scenes hands who nudged that success along. In conjunction with this year’s UN-sponsored Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (June 27) we are going to highlight three such success stories.

Asante Africa’s Youth Livelihood Program (YLP) teaches students fundamental life skills (how to be an effective leader, including how to communicate effectively), preparing for job readiness (taking on problem-solving, individually and as part of a team), and developing the vision necessary for successful entrepreneurship.

Since 2019, third year students of Asante Africa’s extra-curricular YLP have teamed up with trained business volunteers from the UK’s Prince’s Trust International (PTI) in the Enterprise Challenge, an accelerated workshop that aims to help young people create and sustain businesses. 

The PTI’s Enterprise Challenge takes prospective entrepreneurs to the next level. Over the course of its four-day, small group workshop, PTI mentors teach core business concerns: marketing and selling; financing, pricing, and money management; and future planning. Following the workshop, for those students who have successfully pitched their idea to the Trust  – the Challenge culminates in a competition – the beginner entrepreneurs receive small cash prizes and two years of further mentoring.

Let’s take a look at stories that have come out of the 2022 Enterprise Challenge across all three countries:

Hamza, a 17-year-old secondary school student in Lushoto District, Hamza, lost his dad at 13. Hamza’s father left behind a small business, but still the family had difficulty providing for itself. Hamza had – and perhaps still has – dreams of becoming a doctor, but he felt a more immediate responsibility to meet the needs of his family. He enrolled in YLP and through it this year seized the opportunity to immerse himself in the Enterprise Challenge program and to exit the program as one of its winners. 

As a result, Hamza has been able to diversify the family business: He opened a stationary store; he cooks and sells groundnut; and he bakes and sells bread. His bold entrepreneurship not only increased his family’s income, it also enabled him to afford his school necessities.

Now, Hamza manages the family businesses with confidence. And, realizing the good fortune provided to him by Asante Africa  and PTI, Hamza generously dispenses to others in his community all he has learned about entrepreneurial principles and good business practices. The combined programs of the YLP and the Enterprise Challenge have strengthened his business skills and entrepreneurial spirit, and have given Hamza the self-possession to share those skills and that spirit among his neighbors. 

While Hamza represents individual success born of the YLP and Enterprise Challenge, a group of YLP alumna from Bukuya, Uganda, aged 15-17 years, has also successfully competed in the Challenge. “Here we learned teamwork, leadership skills, and communication skills by pooling our ideas and pitching our business to the Enterprise Challenge judges. And because we succeeded at that we were able to start our business, “Dealers in Green Vegetables.” We started with Ugshs 85000 [$23], our savings providing the source of our capital. 

“Since we began our business we have grown. We now express ourselves confidently in public, especially when we are marketing our goods or products. Our business training has taught us how to run and manage a business and to effectively calculate whether we are making profits or losses in the project. Today, our records show the business is making profit, and we expect to own a larger piece of land with more plants. In time, our plan is to sell packaged goods or vegetables.”

A third student to have recently prospered from the Enterprise Challenge is Jacob, a 17-year-old living in Maralal, Samburu County, Kenya, whose education stalled after completing his primary education. With three other children already in high school, Jacob’s guardian simply couldn’t afford to enroll him as well. 

But Jacob was determined to attend high school, and he persevered. Through his school’s Youth Livelihood Program he entered the PTI Enterprise Challenge, where he learned about entrepreneurship and business management. 

In April 2022, Jacob capitalized on his training to start a detergent-making business. Jacob’s aim through this business was to raise enough money to not only resume his own studies but to help his struggling guardian provide for the needs of the three other children. Through the profits Jacob made selling liquid soap and jiko to the locals, he has been able to improve the lives of everyone in his household. “The changes I have noticed in my life are how I am able to pay my school fees and provide for my family.” 

Thanks to the Enterprise Challenge mentoring program, Jacob’s business has continued to grow, as has his confidence and his pride. His story is a testament to the transformative power of programs like Asante Africa’s Youth Livelihood Program and The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Challenge in equipping young people with the business skills they need to succeed as budding entrepreneurs.

These examples of Hamza, the Bukuya group, and Jacob show that supporting East Africa’s youth in training programs like the YLP and Enterprise Challenge pays off. Shilling by shilling they are better able to provide for their families and for themselves, while simultaneously strengthening their community’s economy. The YLP and the Enterprise Challenge instruct young people how to focus their interest and energy productively into businesses whose returns are tabulated not just in profits but in pride. And this is a pride of which every Asante Africa teacher, volunteer, staff person, and financial donor can be proud. 

WRITTEN BY: Jerry Blitefield


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