‘Youth are the future leaders.’ This may sound like a cliché but it is the reality. In every nation young people are mostly identified as the backbone of their nations and are thus held accountable for steering their nation’s future into the right direction. However, youth unemployment has become an issue that holds young people’s capabilities back.
In an effort to curb youth unemployment, organisations like Youthia strive for economic empowerment for young entrepreneurs across Africa. Mandy Shemuvalula, the CEO of Youthia explains that youth entrepreneurship is of much essence because the youth are the largest population segment in Africa with over 66 percent of Africans being young people. Mandy firmly believes that entrepreneurship is the best empowerment tool as it really forces people to stand on their own two feet. “Entrepreneurship is important because it is the only tool that creates opportunities when none firmly exists. We are facing a lot of financial challenges on the continent not just in Namibia and I believe that entrepreneurship is the only tool that people can use to put power back into their hands and they can control their income without anyone having to question how much they earn,” says Mandy.
What holds the youth back?
The road to becoming a successful entrepreneur has never been simple. There are a number of stumbling blocks that entrepreneurs face. Some of the established challenges are lack of capital, specialized training, mentorship and access to markets. However relating to her experience as a young entrepreneur Mandy agrees that those are legitimate concerns but would not define them as the biggest barriers.
“A lot of entrepreneurs have this entitlement mentality of feeling that the government needs to give them gross. The government doesn’t need to do anything because if you want to achieve something you need to get up from your seat and get it yourself. That character is what is missing in a lot of young people and that is what I think is the biggest barrier because if you want to do something you will find a way,” says Mandy.
Mandy also states that a lot of entrepreneurial ability comes natural. “There is that natural gift, that drive of not giving up, being resourceful and making the most of the little that one has. I think that there are some people who were born with it but I think there are also a lot of people who can develop it. Most people are pushed into entrepreneurship either because it is what they naturally want to do or their circumstances,” she emphasizes.
The young entrepreneur believes that everyone has something that drives them to do what they do. She advices young entrepreneurs to figure out their WHYs which should be bigger than themselves. “Figure out what the existence of your life is all about and let that why determine all your decisions. That’s what is going to keep you focused when things are difficult,” says Mandy.
In comparison to other African countries Mandy thinks that Namibians are not as enterprising as they should. “I have been to several African countries and I have noticed that entrepreneurship tend to be a more desirable path for youth in other African countries than Namibia. Namibians love security, they love being comfortable and they love enjoying things without necessarily working hard for it and that is sad,” says Mandy.
However, in considering the Namibian population, Mandy feels that there are few opportunities which is why everyone is fighting for those few opportunities. “The market and the economy are not favourable to people who want to start businesses,” she says. Entrepreneurship is a path for the very few brave people and if one really wants to prosper they need to have a bigger purpose. Namibia is specifically a small country which makes the consumer market and the buying power not so strong.
“I think that the population size is another disadvantage a little bit and on the one side we have a culture that is not really supportive of our entrepreneurship. Although this seem to have been passed on for many years it surely looks more positive because more people are starting businesses and I just feel we need to get to do more and that is why Youthia exists – to really make the path easier and clearer for the youth,” explains Mandy.
Youthia focuses on creating specific platforms that helps youth entrepreneurs to engage. “We want to focus on pioneering the unconventional approach on youth entrepreneurship.” The four core values of Youthia are set to change the environment in terms of youth entrepreneurship across Africa. The model collaborates between the government, public and civil sectors in creating an environment that is supportive of youth entrepreneurship success.
Youthia also promote the use of existing resources to the maximum potential as well as the transfer of ownership which basically focuses on how people challenge the dynamic of power and how to ensure that there is local ownership in communities. “This is touching for human nature in the sense that most people who own businesses around the world name their businesses after themselves. This makes people feel a sense of pride towards building something that has their name on it. So we believe that sentiment and that thinking should be transferred into local ownership,” narrates Mandy.
The Youthia has two platforms namely the Nudge and Afro. Nudge is a two-sided market place that allows youth entrepreneurs to register merchants to advertise their goods and services. Mandy explains that Nudge allows entrepreneurs to serve their customers 24/7 as well as deliver goods anytime of the day. “What Nudge does is that it opens up the market to reach categories of customers that other entrepreneurs didn’t have access to.”
Afro on the other hand is used as Youthia’s trading currency. “For one to do business with Youthia they have to do it in the Afro. What that does is that it mobilizes and unites young entrepreneurs across the country and continent to trade with each other. That already gives them access to bigger markets,” she says.
Youthia started a little over two years ago and it is a progressive company that designs and develops products, services and platforms to help youth entrepreneurs grow.