What millennials need to succeed as entrepreneurs

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60 per cent of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs, and 90 per centre recognise entrepreneurship as a mentality.

By JACQUELINE OCHIENG

Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are described as people born between 1980 and the late 1990s.  This generation is tech savvy, their upbringing more characterised by a liberal approach compared to the generation before them and their life is fast paced. They are known to shift allegiance with ease and hence do not hold on to particular product usage or even stay in jobs for long periods. Unfortunately for them also, their entry into the job market is characterised by periods of rampant unemployment in many countries. Coincidentally, they are also termed the most innovative generation so far, a characteristic key in entrepreneurship.

Businesses like American Express have declared that “Millennials Could Be the Most Entrepreneurial Generation Ever” and Britt Hysen, the editor-in-chief of Millennial magazine, claims that “60 per cent of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs, and 90 per cent recognise entrepreneurship as a mentality.”

The question that begs hence is that if this generation is entrepreneurial, why hasn’t it converted to job opportunities but has rather had the reverse effect?

Global youth population

The global youth population is the largest in history. Of the world’s three billion people estimated to be under the age of 25, approximately 1.3 billion young people are between the ages of 15 and 24, making up a quarter of the world’s working population, but representing half of the world’s unemployed. Just under half of these live on less than $2 a day, as estimated by the United Nations.

Challenges that present themselves amongst the youth because of unemployment are financial and lack of support to enable incubation and maturity of innovative ideas that can be converted to profitable ventures.

The future of the world relies on innovation and entrepreneurship and for this to be realised, focus ought to be placed on supporting millennials to grow and nurture their entrepreneurial propensity. Lack of this will lead to a lost generation that have no legacy to hand over to the next generation who may have to start all over again under a hostile environment.

Entrepreneurship is considereda key driver of economic growth and job creation all over the world. Providing support or mentorship for the entrepreneurial spirit to grow provides the youth with the impetus they need apart from financial support to enable job creation.

Mentorship is important

Mentoring millenials on entrepreneurship is just as important as providing financial access to establish and grow their enterprises. Without mentorship, the startups may not last beyond their formative stages. It is at the “seed” stage — where the business is just a thought or an idea — when mentoring needs to start. There should also be building of capacity to enable the enterprise transit to the startup stage and eventual growth. Ryan J. (2014) talks about two kinds of entrepreneurs. Those who become entrepreneurs by choice have made a personal decision, including assessments of opportunities and their costs (such as being employed, being unemployed, being one’s own boss), and assessment of risk-reward relationships (what is at stake). Other people, however, find themselves in that space because all other options are not available.

To foster successful mentoring to millenials, it is important to know the person’s inclination to entrepreneurship and hence establish the level of effort needed to get them to the passion necessary for success.

Systematic, sustained and concerted action is required to significantly enhance the creative and innovative capacities of young people in ways that are relevant to entrepreneurship.

A study undertaken in June 2015 by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) shows that 60 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds in Africa were optimistic about the availability of good business opportunities, and believed they had the skills and knowledge to start a business. In comparison, just over 17 per cent of young people in the European Union, almost 17 per cent in Asia Pacific and South Asia and around 30 per cent in North America held similar sentiments. The only other region that came close to Sub-Saharan Africa’s optimism was Latin America and the Caribbean, where 40 per cent of the youth believed they had the opportunities, skills and knowledge to start a small business.

It can be safely stated that the optimism in Sub Saharan Africa is correctly placed because the region also suffers some of the highest unemployment levels globally and is in urgent need of interventions.

A study released in June 2015 by Approved Index, a UK-based business networking group, ranked Africa among the top of the entrepreneurship chart. As a testimony of the continent’s rising star, the Entrepreneurship Around the World Report listed Uganda, Angola, Cameroon and Botswana among the top 10 on the entrepreneurship list.

Saturated job market

Nurturing youth on entrepreneurship has never been more essential than it is now.

It is also important to integrate entrepreneurial and innovative learning in academic syllabi to identify and nurture such talent in the youth earlier in life and develop it to a level that it can be made use of when they exit the education system. As it is now, most of this process only starts once one is done with their formal education only to realise the job market is saturated. Even with that young people still need more practical training to fit into certain business environments.

The millenials are here with us and are proof that the traditional system needs to change if significant economic development is to be attained. It will provide a win-win situation for business as the young people get an opportunity for fully engaging their innovative capabilities while financially empowering themselves rather than staying idle in unemployment or unproductive in jobs where they lack motivation.

For entrepreneurship to strongly impact Africa’s economy, governments must tackle some of the greatest challenges that impede its progress, including lack of funds, relevant mentorship and poor government policies.

In addition, African governments should consider giving the private sector incentives through tax relief to create more jobs. Laws and regulations should favour entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the key to economic growth and needs to be supported to achieve this.

Email: jackieochieng@gmail.com

Jacqueline Ochieng is the Head of Research & Development, ICEA LION Group

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