Over this 21st century, conversations about an African renaissance have gained popularity on the African continent, with lots of African governments leaning towards nationalist and Afrocentric policies in their policy platforms. It is also common knowledge that the achievement of such goals is contingent on resources and the ability of Africa to fully unleash its economic capacities. As of 2020, Africa’s youth stood at an estimated average of 60% of its total population (Kariba, 2020). This percentage reveals that a majority of the African population is youthful and any policy targets as regards Africa must be carved and centered around its youth. Africa’s youth however face grave structural barriers when it comes to financing for small businesses and projects. Besides the widening wealth gap which keeps the control of resources in the hands of the older bourgeois, access to convenient funding for many small business initiatives continues to leave many
prospective young entrepreneurs either disillusioned from pursuing business, or at the risk of bankruptcy.
The Industrial Revolution of Western powers, China, and the ASEAN tigers is evidence that the repositioning of any society at the height of the global power chain must be driven by resource mobilization and collective wealth creation. If Africa is to achieve the much acclaimed African renaissance, young minds must be strategically placed and empowered to drive this goal. In some significant ways, African governments are beginning to focus on policies that attempt to bridge this gap. In Ghana, the Ghanaian government is rolling out the ‘YouStart’ government initiative, which is a vehicle through which the government intends to provide funding and technical support to youth and youth-led businesses to assist them to start, build and grow their businesses (Ghana Enterprises Agency, 2022). Ahead of its Vision 2023, the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Ministry of the Government of Kenya has also set up the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, to
offer funds to youth groups for their financial development (Wacera, 2020). Several African governments have also replicated similar initiatives in their respective countries to encourage youth-led entrepreneurship.
While these government-led funding initiatives are laudable, they come with some limitations, which discourage young persons from maximizing these opportunities. As is the norm with most state-sponsored programs, these initiatives are often politicized to the detriment of key demographics who may require them most. Access to such large-scale state funding is often limited to circles of the political elite and those with some ties to circles of power. As such, successful entry into such programs requires high-level political capital, which ordinary young citizens can barely afford. The beneficiaries of these initiatives may often end up being persons who would have likely found their way around alternative funding, due to their social status or connections to others among
the political elite. Even in cases where such programs are transparent, the dominant narrative of such programs being politicized diminishes the likelihood that many young people would take advantage of these opportunities. Additionally, many of these initiatives are fraught with conditional terms that give undesirable control of the businesses to state governments to enable them to meet some set criteria or political objectives. Besides the risk of politicization, the scope of access to these state credit facilities is highly competitive and often excludes marginalized communities such as the semi-literate and persons from underprivileged localities who face information asymmetry barriers in comparison with their urban-based counterparts.
Besides the analyses above, many other nuanced factors militate against access to resources for young persons in Africa under state-sponsored auspices. Arguments could be advanced for the role of the private sector in leading this wave of growth, but issues like the profit incentive of private lending organizations, interest rates, and terms of collateral would mar these propositions. It is for this reason that state governments of African countries must be largely responsible for the innovation and industrialization drive of their countries, with their youth at the fore. It remains our best shot at creating a new age of growth in Africa and the most realistic path toward the realization of the African renaissance.
Ghana Enterprises Agency. (2022). YouStart. Retrieved from gea.gov.gh:
Kariba, F. (2020, July 30). Cities Alliance News. Retrieved from Citiesalliance.org:
Wacera, P. (2020, March 31). Facts and lifehacks. Retrieved from tuko.co.ke: