By Martin Chemhere
For most youth-owned businesses in the Commonwealth Southern African community, access to finance, a united voice to seek support together, ease of doing business amongst the respective countries, are still challenging and bureaucratic. Compounding this outlook is a shortage of accelerator or incubation initiatives necessary to enable specific trade amongst the member countries.
These issues surfaced at the launch of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs Southern Africa (CAYE-SA), on 18 and 19 August 2016 in Johannesburg, under the aegis of the Youth Entrepreneurs South Africa (YESA).
As part of the joint effort to enhance youth entrepreneurship ecosystems were representative member organisations from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique.
“It is very exciting to see a CAYE alliance forming in the southern Africa region, which has so many passionate and talented young entrepreneurs, all hungry to grow their businesses and contribute to their countries’ prosperity. And as well as driving trade within and across borders, the coalition will give the young entrepreneurs a voice with policy makers to enhance the youth entrepreneurship environment, and peer networks for support and sharing of experiences and good practice,” says Katherine Ellis, director Youth, Commonwealth Secretariat.
CAYE-SA is a ‘network of networks’ model, set to bring together national networks of young entrepreneurs and organisations which support young entrepreneurs, to engage with governments, the private sector, the media and other stakeholders. The launch will see the alliance working to raise the profile of entrepreneurship amongst its member countries, through knowledge exchange and trade missions. It is envisaged that there is going to be an impact driven initiative of increasing entrepreneurial activity so as to attract big multinationals to support businesses owned by the youth. It is led by Karabo Songo, a South African businessman and member of YESA.
An executive committee was elected during the proceedings, to be the sole machinery to facilitate the driving of alliance, with each member country being represented on the boards. A charter stating the founding values, mission and vision together with a memorandum of understanding was signed by each country. The Commonwealth will share available trade opportunities with the executive committee who will pass the information on to their member networks.
The aim is to champion the cause of youth entrepreneurship at the local, national, regional and international level, and drive trade and good entrepreneurship practice and education within and beyond the southern Africa region. Linking and supporting young African entrepreneurs will be central as this target group seek to contribute at the heart of national development.
Connecting within the networks will help drive trade and employment, and build regional cohesion, in direct alignment with Sustainable Development Goals 8 and 16. Goal 8 promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; and Goal 16 is based on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
For young entrepreneurs, there are immense prospects in having a platform that links them within and between each region of the Commonwealth, and also with the rest of the world through links with such groups as the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance.
YESA’s President, Innocentia Motau added that, ‘the CAYE-SA platform will directly allow for an environment for entrepreneurs to respond to the South African triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality through cross-border trade facilitations.
‘We greatly encourage and call upon other organisations which support entrepreneurs to back the vision of the CAYE-SA in fostering economic regional integration.’
Each of the member organisations has a mentorship initiative in place and there will be a bi-annual review of its impact, gaps and strategy improvement. It was encouraged during the launch to put more effort into recruiting good mentors and encourage them to be available to guide and coach young entrepreneurs on the business journey. CAYE-SA can be viable when young entrepreneurs receive support and easier access to technology and finance, particularly those unable to provide collateral.
First established in Asia, it is envisaged that Africa will have three alliances representing East, Southern and West Africa regions.
Martin Chemhere is a Freelance Journalist & Media Consultant born in Zimbabwe and currently living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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