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Decent Jobs for Youth on youth entrepreneurship in Africa

Youth entrepreneur

With youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa reaching over 11 million and a further 69% of young people identifying as the ‘working poor’, key public and private sector stakeholders have outlined a plan to tackle the challenges faced by youth in the region through fostering pro-employment growth.

The proposal to be discussed at the Forum taking place in Dakar, Senegal, on 13-14 November 2018 focuses on youth entrepreneurship and self-employment and outlines three major areas for joint action:

  • Improved policy and regulatory environments;
  • Quality access to markets, networks, knowledge and skills, and;
  • Access to finance.

More than 200 representatives from the public and private sector will explore these issues at the YES Forum co-organised by partners of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. The Forum will provide a platform to accelerate support for young entrepreneurs in West Africa.

‘The key to sustained prosperity is investing in employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young people,’ said Charles Immanuel Akhimien, UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals in his opening remarks.

The YES Forum brings together policymakers, young entrepreneurs, social partners, civil society, private sector actors, financial and business-support service providers, as well as international and regional institutions. Participants will exchange experiences, learn from existing initiatives and explore joint actions to boost youth employment.

‘Young entrepreneurs are the innovators and job creators of tomorrow. Equipping them with the right skills and knowledge is essential for an inclusive and sustainable Africa,’ said Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) on behalf of the partners of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

Responding to the youth employment challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa

More than 190 million young women and men aged between 15 to 24 years live in sub-Saharan Africa where micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) account for the vast majority of formal and informal employment. Equipping young people with the necessary skills is crucial for them to leverage economic opportunities and to realize their potential as agents of change.

‘Enabling youth entrepreneurship is central to our mission of achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Africa,’ said Li Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Multi-stakeholder exchanges contributing to a joint declaration

Participants at the YES Forum will engage in policy and technical discussions under the core themes of making policy work for youth entrepreneurship, access to finance, and access to markets, networks, knowledge and skills. Dedicated sessions will focus on emerging and interconnected priorities for African youth, including the importance of digital skills, green jobs and the blue economy, as well as rural development, including agro-based industries and social entrepreneurship to address challenges of climate resilience, food security, and migration.

Throughout the event, young entrepreneurs from the region will take centre-stage, giving inspirational talks about their personal experiences and presenting their business cases in a pitching competition organised by Agence Sénégalaise de Promotion des Exportations (ASEPEX).

‘Young entrepreneurs are part of the solution. Their voices should be heard, their creativity engaged, and their rights respected,’ said Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The exchange of experiences, knowledge, best practices and innovations at the Forum will feed into a joint declaration on scaling up action and impact on youth entrepreneurship and self-employment in West Africa.

The YES Forum is a featured event of the Global Entrepreneurship Week and is jointly co-organised by the partners of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth: International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). It is held in collaboration with the Government of Senegal, Agence Nationale pour la Promotion de l’Emploi des Jeunes (ANPEJ), Agence Sénégalaise de Promotion des Exportations (ASEPEX), the Government of Spain, the Government of Luxembourg, NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency, Nestlé and Jokkolabs, host of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Senegal.

About the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth

Decent Jobs for Youth is the global initiative to scale up action and impact on youth employment under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Launched in 2016, with the endorsement of the executive heads of the United Nations, Decent Jobs for Youth is a unique platform to address fragmentation and catalyse effective and innovative action at country and regional levels.

For more information, visit

About ITC

The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende