Before revisiting and continuing the previous post on our visit from the MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Think Tank, a few dupates. It has been busy here at the Legatum Center, as we launched the Seed Grant application, for projects in Latin America during IAP, and prepared for the a Legatum Lecture with Founder and CEO of the African Leadership Academy, Fred Swaniker.
For background on the Youth Think Tank program and its remarkable participants, please see the previous post on the subject.
Youth Think Tank participants, three Legatum Fellows and our staff convened for lunch and a discussion that stretched into the late afternoon on October 26th. While there was no set agenda before the meeting, it quickly became clear that with the sheer number and diversity of ideas at the table, conversation was going to be in no short supply.
Members of Youth Think Tank explained the challenges faced by young people searching for jobs in Africa.
It began with introductions, and the five (of nine) Think Tank members explained the main problem they had been brought together to discuss and devise solutions for. This year in Nairobi the nine members came together to tackle youth employment in Africa and the difficult transition into working life experienced by many of their generation. Eddy Matagala of Uganda described part of their information gathering strategy; Think Tank members from around the continent interviewed hundreds of people to discover what the main obstacles are for young people in Africa trying to find sustainable, high-impact employment. Out of hundreds of possibilities, the members narrowed it down to nine main solutions, including promoting creativity and innovation, career counseling, financial education and developing the skills needed to market yourself. These are all concepts that we sometimes take for granted in the United States when they are mainstays in college and high school career counseling centers. But far from ubiquitous even in the US, the Think Tank members described how these are very new ideas in African schools and in the priorities of employers.
Legatum Fellow Daniel Obaseki described how he hopes his distribution platform for Nollywood films will contribute to employment opportunities in Nigeria.
At this point, the three Legatum Fellows in attendance chimed in with their experiences with the challenges of job creation as well as personal obstacles to pursuing an unconventional career in entrepreneurship in Africa. Daniel Obaseki, who is working to create a distribution platform for Nigeria’s film industry, discussed how he hopes to bolster the industry, thus adding to the position of Nollywood as a major source of employment for Nigerian youth. Aminata Kane, founder of Fula&Style in Senegal, described the challenges she faced in launching her fashion company, but also the ease with which she was able to tap into the local tailoring market and help support employment. Adetayo Akisanya is also working on increasing employment in Nigeria, by using mobile phone technology to connect small businesses with investors.
The Fellows asked as many questions as they answered, and the discussion touched upon employment opportunities, the challenges faced by African entrepreneurs, the importance of collaborating across industries and sectors and the age-old brain drain vs. brain circulation debate on the pros and cons of Africans coming to the US for their education.
Aminata Kane (second from left) talked to the Youth Think Tank members about the challenges and successes of her local Senegalese fashion company, Fula&Style.
The Think Tank members had identified four sectors where employment opportunities for young people could and should expand - agriculture, ICT, green growth and microfinance. After discussing these side by side with the Fellows’ interests, they also decided the entertainment and fashion industries should be added to that list - industries that are often overlooked by older generations.
Our Director, Iqbal Quadir and Fellowship Manager, Will Guyster chimed in as well, offering their guidance for entrepreneurs in Africa. Professor Quadir was pleased to see the Youth Think Tank addressing precisely the problems that we at the Legatum Center are concerned with. Not only do we believe we are adding to job creation on the continent, but we are also trying to change the conversation. It is important that young people consider entrepreneurship as a rewarding, respectable and high-impact field and that education centers both in the US and abroad put more resources towards entrepreneurship training, like MIT and the African Leadership Academy currently do.
The Think Tank participants left the Legatum Center with new ideas and partnerships, and the conversation continued over dinner at the Museum of Fine Arts. But the meeting was not a one-way conversation. Legatum Center Staff and the three Fellows in attendance also left with a sense of optimism for Africa’s future as embodied by these five, bright minds. We hope to see their names in our stack of Legatum Fellowship applications in the near future!