Skip to main content

Unlocking the potential of Africa’s young entrepreneurs



A new report launched by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) portrays a burgeoning youth-owned business landscape in Africa, as millions of young Africans faced with bleak employment prospects turn to set up their own businesses.  While this carries huge potential for economic development and sustainable livelihoods, many of these businesses, the report explains, are barely surviving.

The report, Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs: Unlocking the Potential for a Brighter Future, is the first to focus on Africa’s young entrepreneurs and is the culmination of a 3-year project carried out by GEM with financial support from IDRC. It draws on data collected from nine countries (Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia) and provides a solid body of evidence to support policies that encourage young entrepreneurs  to enter high-growth and profitable sectors. 

The report findings show that most young Africans consider running a business to be a desirable career choice and that a high proportion of youth are engaged in entrepreneurial activity. However, this activity is concentrated within a limited number of low-growth sectors. For instance, 64% of youth businesses operate in the retail sector, where almost all (97%) are low-growth and more than half (54%) employ only the owner. Thus, even though most youth in sub-Saharan Africa are classified as entrepreneurs, their small and undifferentiated businesses are unlikely to grow and create jobs for others.

The report identifies four areas that can be targeted to unleash the potential of Africa’s young entrepreneurs: education and training, business support and advice, business capital and financial support, and ICT and technology.

GEM is the world’s longest continuous study of entrepreneurship. With support from IDRC, it has broadened its scope to reflect developing-country realities and bring Canada back into the GEM research community. Since 2009, IDRC has funded GEM research in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and the Caribbean, giving countries in these regions a firm base of evidence on which to develop policies to encourage business start-ups. 

Download the 2015 report, Africa's Young Entrepreneurs: Unlocking the Potential for a Brighter Future (PDF, 2.6MB)

Read more about how IDRC is putting Canadian entrepreneurship in the global picture, fostering entrepreneurship, and supporting young entrepreneurs.  

Learn more about the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).

Read the 2012 GEM sub-Saharan Africa Report, the first report to examine entrepreneurial dynamics in the region.​