Is youth entrepreneurship lagging in North and Central Africa?

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Data from this year’s Anzisha Prize applications reveal a potential shortage of young entrepreneurs who are women, are from North and Central Africa or  are involved in renewable energy ventures.

We are hoping that our application data reflects weaknesses in our outreach strategy, rather than the reality on the ground. If our sample is a mirror of youth entrepreneur activity across the continent, then we are sitting with a fairly dire situation for youth venture creation outside of some key hubs,” comments Josh Adler, Director for the Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the African Leadership Academy.

This is a picture that has to change rapidly … we need to see more meaningful entrepreneur activity amongst teenagers across the continent and within key sectors that we know can create quality jobs and growth.”

The prestigious Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for its youngest entrepreneurs, is encouraging North and Central Africans, young women and those with renewable energy ventures from around the African continent to enter.

The R 800 000 Anzisha Prize, hosted by the African Leadership Academy in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, awards young African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22 who have started ventures that are making an impact in their communities. There is an additional R 107 000 grant, courtesy of the Donor Circle for Africa group of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, that is given to a young entrepreneur who is working on a renewable energy initiative.

With a week to go to the application deadline, over 200 applications have been received from more than 25 countries, with some very fascinating trends.

  • Applications from young female entrepeneurs are waning. While 55% of the African youth population between 15-24 is female, young women only make up 25% of the current Anzisha Prize applicant pool.
  • North African applications are low despite significantly more awareness campaigns for the Anzisha Prize in the region. Of the 33 Anzisha Prize Fellows selected since 2011, only three are from North Africa and all of these are from young men from Egypt. This year massive effort has been made to increase access to the Anzisha Prize in North Africa.
  • Biogas and green charcoal initiatives look to be more prevalant amongst African youth rather than solar, wind, and other alternative energy initiatives. There is also little evidence of downstream business activity for services that make good use of off-grid power. Of the renewable energy applications received thus far, nearly all deal with biogas and charcoal made from waste material.

We need to enlist the help of the media, gender-focused youth organisations and teachers to encourage candidates they know of for the prize to apply.” Continues Adler: “Our applications team is standing by to support entries and nominations in French, Arabic and English and our country partners in every region are available to engage national media in the debate around youth entrepreneurship in different countries.”

Past award recipients include Best Ayiorwoth, a young woman from Uganda, who began a small micro-credit services company that invests in and empowers young women in Uganda, and Khaled Shady, inventor of Mubser, a wearable belt for the visually impaired in Egypt (Shady was recently listed by Forbes as amongst the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs under 30). Profiles for all 33 of our past Anzisha Fellows are available online.

The Anzisha Prize applications are now open and close on April 1, 2014. Application and nomination forms are available online. Prospective applicants can chat online, see our recent activities and engage with our team on Facebook. You can also follow Anzisha Prize on Twitter (@anzishaprize).

Finalists will win an all-expense paid trip to the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, to attend a week-long entrepreneurship development programme and awards gala. While there, they will be taught by the African Leadership Academy’s renowned Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty, as well as experienced business mentors. They will then enter a life-long support programme as part of the African Leadership Academy’s alumni network with access to unrivaled opportunities for personal development and venture growth.

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