Investment in very young entrepreneurs can unlock jobs growth finds report

Investments in supporting successful transitions from school and university directly to entrepreneurship could unlock significant employment gains in Africa.

This, according to a new research paper from the Anzisha Prize which has worked with very young African entrepreneurs for over a decade.

To produce the report, the Anzisha Prize commissioned in-depth desk top reviews and new field research from leading academics as well as held workshops with key stakeholders across the continent over more than a year.

“We really wanted to respond to this lack of data around the questions we were dealing with in a way that could credibly influence policy,” comments Josh Adler, executive director of the African Leadership Academy.

“In our most recent analysis, just 77 of our 122 Anzisha Fellows had created over 2000 dignified work opportunities and 56% of those jobs were for young people under 25.

“In addition, three of our Anzisha Fellows have placed a total of 825 people in jobs of which 60% were under 25. We wanted more evidence to support what we were seeing in our program, so commissioned all this research activity.”

The Very Young Entrepreneur Scenario research project kicked off in late 2018 with a green paper and series of participatory workshops to explore what the future might hold for Very Young (15 to 25 year-old) Entrepreneurs in Africa.

‘Parents poorly served’

Dozens of organisations participated over several months, with clear recommendations emerging for five key stakeholder groups — educators, parents, investors, incubators and policy makers. Most interestingly, a pattern emerged around who the most important yet poorly served stakeholder group is, parents.

“We are hoping that this research leads to far more organisations that are trying to tackle employment and education in Africa focusing their energies on parents” continues Adler. “We see parents as the forgotten stakeholder of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The report is careful not to paint youth entrepreneurship as a panacea. Rather, very young entrepreneurship and successful transitions from school to entrepreneurship are under-invested so significant gains could be realised if that share of wallet was increased.

It also provides an important counter perspective on a commonly held view that older entrepreneurs are more successful and more impactful.

Crucial role of young entrepreneurs

“Through the Anzisha Prize, we have observed that young entrepreneurs are more likely to hire other young people,” comments Peter Materu, chief programme officer at the Mastercard Foundation, which has supported the Anzisha Prize since inception.

“Now, we have evidence that builds the case for supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship at a very young age, and helps us better understand how to do that. Certainly entrepreneurship, especially at such young ages, is not for
everyone. But this report is shaping a narrative that positions young people as economic change agents.”

Key insights that stand out from the research process underpinning Anzisha’s scenario work:

  • Very young entrepreneurship sits at the intersection of three established policy spaces – education policy, small enterprise policy and youth policy – and often gets lost in between.
  • While there are many initiatives taking place to support the growth of (youth) entrepreneurship in African countries, there is very little evidence available to measure progress and determine impact, and even less so when the focus is on very young entrepreneurs.
  • Very young entrepreneurs create jobs for other young people across the continent, despite the lack
    of investment in this age group.
  • Very young entrepreneurs have less access to credit than older entrepreneurs. New innovations in lending and investment are needed to support the job creation potential of very young entrepreneurs.
    For many very young entrepreneurs, the dominant source of financing remains family and friends.
    Early exposure to entrepreneurship, and quality entrepreneurship education integrated into existing
    education systems is essential to foster entrepreneurial aspirations.

The Very Young Entrepreneur Scenario for Africa report is available freely at

This story appeared originally on the Anzisha Prize’s blog on 26 May. See it here.

The Anzisha Prize seeks to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job generative entrepreneurs in Africa, and is a partnership between African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation. Through Ventureburn, they hope to share inspirational and relatable stories of very young (15 to 22 year old) African entrepreneurs and the people that support them. [learn more]



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