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Networks best strategy for young entrepreneurs to win contracts

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th October 2014 06:13 PM

For every contract job advertised, there is usually a clause on experience and reputable referees.

Networks best strategy for young entrepreneurs to win contracts

For every contract job advertised, there is usually a clause on experience and reputable referees.

By John Eremu in Rabat, Morocco

For every contract job advertised, there is usually a clause on experience and reputable referees.

Then they also want to know your capital base. These three requirements have tended to put most local and international contracts beyond the means of many young and innovative entrepreneurs in Africa.

Therefore, one of the challenges the just concluded second ministerial forum on Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) tried to solve was youth access to capital and how to win contracts.

Samuel Mathey, a Professor of Economics and Management has come up with a Zero Capital Model as the best solution to the challenge of lack of capital for young entrepreneurs. 

“When it comes to contracts, the young entrepreneurs are usually told that they do not have enough experience or references to get the contracts,” Mathey told the session on Youth and Entrepreneurship in the Moroccan capital, Rabat last week.

Mathey whose specialization is debt management, financing and entrepreneurship teaches in several universities in the US and Europe. He defined zero capital as starting a company without any external financing or if one accesses external funding, the total investment should not be more than 10%.

Drawing from his example of starting 10 companies with no capital, Mathey, a native of Cote D’Ivoire, said on his return from further studies in the US, he set up African Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, to try to replicate the same model among the youth.

To address lack of access to capital using the Zero capital concept, Mathey said his foundation, a not-for-profit organization, has a training programme for young people. 

“We go to the villages because rural people are very innovative teaching them how to start up companies without any capital,” Mathey said.

“We are using the concept of international staff to address access to contracts. We have a data base to connect entrepreneurs across Africa so that they can come together to create a multi-national staff to win the contracts,” he said.

Uganda is currently grappling with high youth unemployment rate which stands at almost 70%. Of the about 300,000 students who join the labour market annually only 50,000 can be absorbed said state minister for higher education, Dr. JC Muyingo, who was also in Rabat.

The other participants from Uganda included Prof. Nelson Ssewankambo, the principal Makerere University Medical School and Eng. Patrick Amuriat, the chairperson parliamentary committee on science and technology.  

The Zero Capital Model is what leading entrepreneurs in Uganda have also advocated. Kampala business mogul Sudhir Ruparelia as well as hotelier Karim Hirji have advised the youth at different Pakasa Forums that it advisable to set up businesses with personal savings rather than borrowed money. Both entrepreneurs own commercial banks. 

The four-day conference in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, has brought together ministers responsible for education, technology and scientific research across Africa as well as leading researchers, academics and development partners. It was sponsored by a consortium of donors including among others the Word Bank, the African Development Bank and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa – ADEA. 

The other panelists who addressed the entrepreneurship workshop included Aicha Ennaifar, the CEO, Diva, SICAR, a Tunisian public company created by the government-owned Telco that gives youth in the IT sector start-ups; Jackie Olang, programmes director, Network of African Science Academies, Caleb Kiprono Metto, executive director, Youth Agency for Development of Science, Technology and Innovation - Kenya and Jussi Hinkkanen, CEO, Fuzu.

Fuzu is a mobile-first career development platform that profiles job seekers skills, personality and talent, provides training and tests candidates against job requirements. Fuzu also helps users to plan ahead their careers and to find the right job that fits their unique talent profile and experience. It also enables employers to validate job seekers based on candidates' actual skills and growth potential. 

All the panelists agreed that the youth need training and exposure to entrepreneurship skills to change their mindset as a strategy to address the high unemployment rate. 

Giving what he termed a “Viewpoint of a 360º practitioner,” Jussi said the mentalities needed to create innovators and entrepreneurs critical to solving Africa’s challenges is the development of a performance-based culture, cherishing failure and a culture of sharing and pen innovation.

Ennaifar said with a good and innovative idea, the issue of financing should not arise. She called on universities to offer relevant programmes by linking up with industry. 

To Kiprono, unemployment provides the best stimulus to entrepreneurship because one cannot remain jobless forever. He however said the youth are very impatient yet most institutions are too bureaucratic and hence, not creating and enabling environment for youth engagement.

Olang advocated for the need for role models to stir entrepreneurship skills in the youth. She observed that a number of innovations do not come to fruition because people think of financing first. He called for an exchange model   that does not require financing. 


Networks best strategy for young entrepreneurs to win contracts

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