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Kenya: Celebrated entrepreneur calls for better policies and resources to support youth and women entrepreneurship
Multi-award-winning entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar has called on policymakers to develop better policy options, backed by dedicated resources to support the youth and women to become successful entrepreneurs.
Addressing a forum organized by the Eastern Regional office of the African Development Bank in Nairobi last week, Ashkar, CEO and founder of the Hult Prize Foundation, said 99% of youth do not think they can be entrepreneurs. “We should equip them with financing, tools, and training in soft skills, which is lacking in the current education system,” he said.
The audience included staff of the African Development Bank, World Bank officials, the International Law Institute alumni and the Ukrainian Ambassador to Kenya, Andriy Pravednyk.
Also present was a group of young Kenyan entrepreneurs who founded technology firm BuuPass, which won the $1 million Hult Prize in 2016 for innovating a modern and simplified online booking and ticketing system used by trains, airlines and buses in Kenya.
Ashkar is ranked among the top 100 Most Powerful Arabs by Gulf Business 2019 Edition. He was also named in a TIME Magazine cover story featuring the top five ideas changing the world.
“In strong democracies such as USA, a young person can come up with a business idea and register his business in a very short time, which is not the case in most Africa countries. We have to create innovative policies that favour entrepreneurship”, he said, bemoaning “the policy, regulatory and legal hurdles that hinder entrepreneurship development in Africa.”
Marcellin Ndong Ntah, Lead Economist of the African Development Bank, said the Bank is passionate about improving livelihoods in Africa, especially the youth and women. “We are also keen to partner with governments, private sector and other stakeholders in finding innovative ways of changing lives, and this meeting is testimony to this cause”, Ntah said
Edson Mpyisi, Chief Financial Economist and Coordinator of the Bank’s ‘Enable Youth’ Program, said the initiative is intended to empower the youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain by harnessing new skills, technologies and financing to enable them establish viable businesses.
The Enable Youth Program entails an annual entrepreneurial and innovation training and competition, aimed at encouraging the youth to venture into agribusiness. The winners are mentored by an accelerator program that provides further training and coaching for 12 months.
“We focus on the youth because Africa is currently the youngest continent, with a median age of only 19 years. The Bank has invested in ‘Enable Youth’ projects in 14 countries in Africa, to a tune of $406 million,” he added.
The presentations were followed by lively discussions among the audience on a wide range of issues such as de-risking investments for the youth and women, and alternative innovative entrepreneurship business models.
Kwasi Kpodo, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank