Africa is the youngest continent with almost 200 million people in the age group of 15-24 years. The recent decades have seen entrepreneurial activity heating up across Africa leading to increasing number of youth from this age bracket taking the entrepreneurship plunge and moving from being job seekers to job creators. These youth entrepreneurs are exhibiting increasing risk propensity and heightened responsiveness to emerging entrepreneurship opportunities. However, the journeys of these youth entrepreneurs are littered with a range of challenges which can be broadly classified under lack of access to information, networking, funding and mentoring.
Responding to these ecosystem challenges, UNDP aspires to design and develop a Youth Entrepreneurship Portal to help young entrepreneurs grow their businesses by creating a virtual ecosystem. With this objective UNDP conducted a feasibility assessment based on rigorous
secondary research and stakeholder interviews. The exercise mapped and analysed the African youth entrepreneurship support ecosystem landscape with an aim to identify gaps and opportunities that an online portal can aspire to address with respect to the four broad ecosystem challenges. The recently concluded SEED-UNDP Africa Symposium 2016 which brought together young entrepreneurs helped this feasibility study capture insights on the ecosystem challenges and potential solution spaces from the young entrepreneurs’ perspective.
Based on the analysis, the team arrived at a set of key strategic considerations for portal design and development drawing from insights around key design criteria, portal revenue streams and sustainability, portal content drivers, and online entrepreneurship support initiatives by donors. The feasibility assessment clearly validates the need for UNDP to develop and launch an online portal for strengthening the existing youth entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa. The assessment of gaps suggests that a whitespace exists for the UNDP portal to act as a youth entrepreneurship ecosystem catalyst. In this role, UNDP can act as a facilitator of capital, information, mentoring and networking, rather than providing these services directly.
UNDP’s strength as an ecosystem convener and its strong brand will bring an additionality to the existing ecosystem efforts, provided that the planned UNDP portal integrates existing efforts and helps driving traffic and gaining visibility for other initiatives. Stakeholder feedback suggests that UNDP can play a strong role as an aggregator, given its neutral positioning and role as a market builder in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Stakeholders consulted during the exercise suggests that value would lie into helping to create the market for youth entrepreneurship promotion, whether it is through helping to build the pipeline of youth entrepreneurs and helping idea-stage entrepreneurs or through catalyzing the ecosystem to help youth entrepreneurs to build and scale their businesses.