Africa’s dynamic growth is not only driven by established companies but also by innovative youth led entrepreneurship.
From ingenious social ventures that address social economic problems to businesses that reignite the passion for African art and wares, the continent is rife with ambitious young entrepreneurs. They yearn to positively influence Africa’s growth in the next 50 years as outlined in the African Union Agenda 2063. Young people are at the forefront of an African renaissance by revitalizing business on the continent through inventive ideas and inspiring rejuvenated interest in African culture.
Mohamed Awale, 26, the creative designer and co-owner of Suave Kenya, is among the youth driving the continent’s economic renaissance. The International Business Administration graduate from United States International University founded the company that deals in bags and accessories in March 2013. The bags from Suave Kenya are unique, versatile and embody fine African craftsmanship. Mohamed was inspired to start Suave Kenya by his passion for unique African products, having spent time learning the ropes with his big brother in his leather products venture.
Suave focuses on a retro/urban look for the bags, using different locally sourced materials and fabrics like denim, wool, linen, cotton, polyester, rayon, kitenge, leso, kikoi and other materials. Two years on, the business is thriving, having showcased the bags in premier fashion events in Kenya and abroad. In 2014, his company made a debut at Nairobi Fashion Week which attracts topnotch designers in Kenya. He was recently featured in CNN’s African Start up http://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2015/02/12/spc-african-start-up-suave-designs.cnn
Suave Kenya’s products appeal to trendy young people with a zeal for top quality products. The company produces up to 50 bags a month as well as corporate orders. The company expects to increase its sales through its social media platforms, which has grown Suave’s customer base. Currently with two permanent employees all under 35 years of age, Mohammed attributes his company’s success to its finer finishes on their products, something that is often overlooked by other producers of local merchandise. http://www.suavedesigns.co.ke/
The entrepreneurship journey for Mohammed has not been without challenges. Having utilized all his savings from his previous job as an oil marketer as capital, the business did not take off immediately as anticipated. He sourced for funding from all avenues he could think off and six months later the profits had not materialized, forcing him to quit his job to fully concentrate on his business. Making a sale at first was also a hurdle; it was only after he grew individual customers that his business flourished due to people’s appreciation of the product. Another hindrance is that some of the material he imports is costly to the business; furthermore he also has to take time to personally source local materials to ensure they make products that are unique and of good quality.
He urges African governments to support young entrepreneurs, as they offer a solution to the global unemployment crisis. He especially notes that young entrepreneurs would benefit immensely if start ups got financial support and capacity building to equip youth with skills on how to successfully manage their businesses. He recommends creation of a platform for youth to market their products as well as reduced import and export tax for small enterprises owned by youth.
Mohammed encourages fellow African youth to be resilient in their quest, daring in their approaches, and not fear risk-taking in entrepreneurship. He further encourages being bold with taking one’s ideas further than mere conception. He attributes the craze for employment by youth as a product of an education system that does not address the needs of dynamic society. Technical schools need to be revamped and schools to nurture specific talents created. Society should also break away from the notion of revering blue collar jobs.
As more youth embrace entrepreneurship the continent will undoubtedly surpass its economic goals. Mohammed’s vision is to expand his business regionally as well as globally. He also intends to change perceptions about local products made in Africa by Africans; with his zeal, creativity and passion for entrepreneurship he is on the road to build an African brand.
About me: I am currently pursuing a degree in International Relations at United States International University – Africa (USIU-A). I have served as the Inter-governmental organizations liaison for Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) – USIU chapter 2013-2014. I am passionate about peace, women empowerment and youth empowerment. I believe to have lived is to have made an impact in people’s lives and as such I am always looking to inspire others to learn more, be more and do more.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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