The need for SME and entrepreneurship development is especially relevant in the globalised world we live in. It is however a dire situation in emerging economies, where young and expanding populations require the creation of more and better jobs and where economic diversification and increased competitiveness require enterprise development. Events in the past half decade inform us that to achieve these goals, there needs to be a vibrant space for youth development – supporting rural and urban young people and their organisations and enabling them to play an active role in their communities.
It is generally acknowledged in the policy sphere that fostering entrepreneurship development especially in the agri-food sector will be key to the economic and social progress and in addressing the bulging youth unemployment challenges. Proactively supporting young people to identify business opportunities across the agricultural value chain and also re-focusing the mindset of governments, individual and institutional investors to be innovative in their approach to providing financing for young agricultural entrepreneurs will be a game-changer to immense economic emancipation.
Opportunities for job creation exist for young people but unfortunately would not yield any meaningful impact if supportive frameworks are weak or even worse, non-existent and are mere rhetoric. There is a real need for strategic interventions and approaches by governments and development partners to face challenges of unemployment and underemployment of the bulging youth population. Nurturing and impacting employable skills to unskilled youth in rural, peri-urban and urban communities to improve their chances of getting employed and/or becoming entrepreneurs is very essential. However, since majority of non-skilled youth reside in rural communities, they should receive greater emphasis and support. The demographic needs of young rural people are very challenging and they are prone to migrating to cities for non-available jobs if they are left idle and unsupported. Development of a dynamic process of acquiring basic to advanced skills training in both farm and non-farm enterprises and provision of startup grants and loans ( at flexible interest rates and collateral arrangements) will go a long way to address youth unemployment and provide enterprise growth. Availability of mentoring and business development services would further improve the business and managerial skills of young rural entrepreneurs.
YALESI is not just a summit. It is a space for enterprising young persons and leaders to connect, share experiences and get opportunities to develop strategic financing decisions for youth-managed businesses. It is a platform for leaders, financial institutions, development partners, impact research institutions and governments to initiate sustainable projects to address youth unemployment across various value chains and providing employable skills development and financial intermediation for fledgling youth-managed ventures.