World over, youth entrepreneurship has remained a challenge for young people, communities and governments alike. This challenge has been sustained even though youth entrepreneurship has often been touted as a solution to employment generation and poverty alleviation.
A good starting point is to understand what youth entrepreneurship means. Renowned entrepreneurship scholar, Professor Francis Chigunta, defined youth entrepreneurship as “The practical application of enterprising qualities such as initiative, innovation, creativity, and risk taking into the work environment (either in self-employment or employment in small start-up firms), using the appropriate skills necessary for success in that environment and culture.” (Chigunta, 2002, p. 2). From this definition, the tenets of youth entrepreneurship are qualities such as initiative, innovation, creativity, and risk taking. Hence, a successful youth entrepreneurship programme should aim at developing these qualities amongst nascent entrepreneurs.
Research conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and other scholars, indicate that most governments have tried to put in place legislative, strategic and programmatic frameworks that seek to involve youth in economic activities. Looking carefully at these interventions, the common thread seems to be skills-based entrepreneurship education. There is nothing wrong with imparting entrepreneurship skills to the youth. As a matter of fact, they need such skills to understand how to start and run a business. Serious debate, however, has continued to rage among scholars and policy makers, whether the problem is the content of such education or it is the manner in which it is delivered. The jury is still out on this matter. Suffice it to say that both the content of entrepreneurship education, and the way it is delivered to the youth, are equally important. However, evidence from the GEM research shows that the results have not turned out as expected. It appears that some critical component is not being addressed.
Most scholars agree that the structures of several economies in the world have not been adapted to support budding young entrepreneurs. This is especially so because youth entrepreneurship is considered to be more challenging than other kinds of entrepreneurship. Although young people may be amenable to self-employment, they have limited access to resources and have inadequate life and work experience. Most young people generally lack information, knowledge, appropriate premises, and confidence; and they do not have adequate support networks. Because of these and other limitations, young people are more likely to face greater risks and barriers to entrepreneurship than adults.
Research on youth entrepreneurship seems to indicate that some of the biggest impediments to youth entrepreneurship could possibly be coming from the youth themselves. Some of the major barriers to youth entrepreneurship, which have constrained their success include:
- being unsure of one’s capabilities;
- inability to recognise entrepreneurial opportunities;
- having biased attittudes towards an entrepreneurship; and
- preference for job seeking rather than job creation.
These and other factors contribute to an unhealthy entrepreneurial culture, which is not likely to lead to successful outcomes.
Psychology scholars on entrepreneurship posit that the mind is the source of entrepreneurial intentions. Their argument is that one’s psychological disposition and mindset create the right frame of mind that is critical for entrepreneurial success. Psychologists believe that entrepreneurship is a function of one’s psychological disposition and is dependent upon possession of the right perceptions and attitudes which are formed at a young age. One’s mindset is said to create the motivation to venture into entrepreneurship and is influenced by the belief that one can start and succeed in business. Such belief is understood to fuel self-confidence as well as the desire and intention to start a business.
If the mind is the source of entrepreneurial intentions, how come that most interventions on youth entrepreneurship have not focussed on the mind? Your guess is perhaps as good as mine.
We at Entrepreneurship Journey recognise the importance of the mind in successful youth entrepreneurship. That is why the starting point of our entrepreneurship mentorship programme is the identification of entrepreneurial qualities that can be nurtured for business success.
Ignatius Odongo is a practitioner and an avid scholar on youth entrepreneurship. He has written articles on this subject that have been published on peer reviewed journals.
You can download one of such articles entitled: Mental triggers and youth entrepreneurship in South Africa and Uganda: A conceptual overview that was published in the Journal of Sociology, Psychology and Anthropology in Practice, Volume 9, Number 2, August 2018. The article is available on this link: http://www.icidr.org/jspap-vol9n02-august2018/Mental-Triggers-and-Youth-Entrepreneurship-in-South-Africa-and-Uganda-A-Conceptual-Overview.pdf.