Young people’s inexperience is perhaps their greatest asset for being successful entrepreneurs who create jobs for their peers. This is according to a new impact report from the Anzisha Prize, which has worked with Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs for the last decade. Young Africans today are three times more likely than the generation before them to be unemployed, and this was before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. A staggering statistic that has informed the program’s work of building a movement of championing “entrepreneurship as a career” to solve unemployment amongst African youth.
“Our research and data over the last 10 years have proven that very young African entrepreneurs are exceptional at creating work opportunities for other youth,” comments Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize. “We’re excited to share critical lessons that will inform the future of supporting young entrepreneurs and hopefully amplify how we as a continent tackle the future of work.”
The impact report “Unlocking Africa’s hidden job creators: Lessons from ten years of supporting transitions from education to entrepreneurship in Africa” highlights 11 key lessons learned that inform how early-career entrepreneurs can be supported. Careful to avoid market denialism, the program sheds a light on challenges within the entrepreneurship movement on the continent, including cultural aversion, weak education systems, unsupportive regulation, and a lack of market access. Working from the vantage point of an established academic institution like African Leadership Academy, the report provides focus on supporting the transition from secondary school to entrepreneurship. Addressing various stakeholders – educators, parents, investors, policymakers, incubators within the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem – the report offers a guide on how a coordinated movement of these key influencers can change the trajectory of entrepreneurship on the continent for young people and see the creation of 1M dignified work opportunities by 2030.
The Anzisha Prize has supported 142 African youth through the fellowship program that has empowered the entrepreneurs to develop their business acumen skills, access investor opportunities, and scale their ventures. To date, entrepreneurs have created more than 2500 jobs. Intentional in including stories of young entrepreneurs that contextualise supporting data, the program’s lessons offer examples of what entrepreneurship looks like in practice for young people. For example, 24-year-old Kenyan business owner Geoffrey Mulei’s journey of employing 50 young persons, of which 70% are below the age of 25, dispels the narrative that young entrepreneurs are not particularly capable.
“Young people have the greatest stake in Africa’s economic future—and the Anzisha Prize has proven that they are ready to roll up their sleeves and build that future,” says Daniel Hailu, Regional Head, Eastern and Southern Africa Mastercard Foundation.
“They have the ideas, the ambition, and the energy required to launch and scale problem-solving enterprises that become engines of economic growth and opportunity. All they need is support. These lessons from the Anzisha Prize’s model of delivering that support can be adopted by other institutions—including education institutions—that are interested in cultivating entrepreneurial skills among young people.”
With overarching themes discussing gender inclusivity, entrepreneurship education, and policy change, key lessons that stand out are:
Lesson #4: When young women entrepreneurs are purposefully sought out, they are easily found.
Lesson #6: Entrepreneurship is learned through practice. Entrepreneurial skills are best practiced like a sport, not taught like a class.
Lesson #10: Markets open when trust is borrowed. Investors are more willing to engage young entrepreneurs who are endorsed by established brands.
Lesson #11: Supporting parents will enable very young entrepreneurs. A widespread parental attitude shift could be the trojan horse that unlocks entrepreneurship as a career.
Despite the proven record that young entrepreneurs provide opportunities for their peers, there still needs to be attention on the support of early age transitions to entrepreneurship. As the program sets its sights on the next 10 years, this will remain a primary focus and aim to drive Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem to “think younger.”
“Unlocking Africa’s hidden job creators: Lessons from ten years of supporting transitions from education to entrepreneurship in Africa” is freely available for download here: Anzisha.info/11Lessons
About the Anzisha Prize
The Anzisha Prize is delivered by African Leadership Academy in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. Through the Anzisha Prize, the organisers seek to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job generative entrepreneurs in Africa. They believe that a key to doing so is to test, implement and then share models for identifying, training, and connecting high potential, very young entrepreneurs (15 to 22-year-olds) so that many more organisations have better collective success in creating a pipeline of entrepreneurs with the capabilities for scale.
About African Leadership Academy
African Leadership Academy (ALA) seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of entrepreneurial leaders who will work together to achieve extraordinary social impact. Each year, ALA brings together the most promising young leaders from all 54 African nations for a pre-university program in South Africa with a focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and African studies. ALA continues to cultivate these leaders throughout their lives, in university and beyond, by providing ongoing leadership and entrepreneurial training and connecting them to high-impact networks of people and capital that can catalyse large-scale change. For more information, visit http://
About the Mastercard Foundation
The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. For more information on the Foundation, please visit: www.mastercardfdn.org