In module 5 of our ShE is Empowered sessions, Africa Matters Initiative asked its ShE Leaders to briefly reflect on the kinds of conversations that they would like to hear their communities or countries have around youth development. In this reflective piece, ShE Leader Fatma Ezzahra Maatoug takes on this challenge about moving critical conversations forward.
The conversation I want to see my community talking about is how to make youth entrepreneurship a viable and desired path. I believe that spreading the mindset of entrepreneurship among youth and empowering students and young graduates with knowledge and mentorship can create a generation that can improve the economic situation and decrease the rate of unemployment. Moreover, an entrepreneurship journey can help youth to gain valuable soft and hard skills. We need to tackle the statistics of unemployment and critical economic situations more seriously and talk about how we can offer the necessary tools to encourage and empower youth to choose entrepreneurship over waiting for the government to provide jobs.
Speaking from personal experience, I can acknowledge that considerable efforts have been made toward encouraging youth to start creating start-ups and companies. In Tunisia, this is done through events, competitions, universities clubs, influencers, etc. Indeed, I can’t deny the existence of a number of incubators and entrepreneurship programs. But, it’s still not sufficient because the number of student-entrepreneurs or under 30 entrepreneurs is very small.
To move this conversation forward, I think that it's crucial to add an entrepreneurship module as a subject in the different academic paths and curriculums. This subject must be taught in a practical way and every student should be required to suggest a project idea for a problem that he or she has identified. Also, inviting entrepreneurs and industry experts would be very beneficial to orient the students and clarify concepts.
Moreover, we have to hold more training sessions in universities and even high schools for ideation, marketing, etc. Increasing the number of competitions, encouraging business and venture capitalists to be angel investors in start-ups led by youth will also help to spread this conversation.
An important point is giving incentives to student and youth entrepreneurs. These incentives can either be in financial terms or even in terms of academic timetable flexibility. To conclude, I believe that we really need to talk more about making self-employment a life path and an option because of its positive effects on youth and society.