BUJUMBURA September 1st (ABP) – A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has shown that youth unemployment is increasingly worrying in Africa and that the solution to tackling that problem lies in entrepreneurship. On that issue, considerable strides have been made to encourage youth entrepreneurship in Africa, but young people still face many obstacles.
According to a report from Support for Integral Development and Solidarity on the Villages (ADISCO), in Burundi, the issue of youth unemployment gives food for thought. Indeed, young people represent more than 60% of the people with a very high unemployment rate (on average 13.3% 1). The reception capacity of the school system giving direct access to a profession is clearly insufficient. An expert in entrepreneurship and project management, Dr. Léonard Bizimana, nevertheless believes that the contribution of entrepreneurship to job creation is unprecedented. He was speaking Thursday July 29 after a public conference that was organized by the Higher Institute of Management (ISG). First, he defines youth entrepreneurship as the ability of young people to identify, explore and exploit opportunities. Therefore, to undertake is to create wealth, he explains, while estimating, moreover, that when the young people manage to explore the opportunities, identify them and exploit them concretely, it is possible that those young people can leave the unemployment.
Dr. Bizimana believes that the barriers to youth entrepreneurship are linked to the lack of creativity and innovation towards the latter, but also to training that is not anchored on the creation of wealth and its management but also, and above all, a cultural dimension. “In Burundi, culture poses a great challenge for the development of young people. His dependence is too pronounced in a lot of families and often young people are drowned in that dependence and close their eyes to the discovery of opportunities and the design of projects on the opportunities,” he lamented. The OECD considers that those barriers are linked to the attitude of society towards entrepreneurship, the lack of skills, the insufficient training in entrepreneurship, ‘lack of own funds, the absence of contacts and the barriers inherent in the market, the formalities which are heavier and longer, the start-up cost and the lack of access to information, particularly relevant for entrepreneurial activities.
As for the attitudes that a young Burundian must adopt to embrace an entrepreneurial career, the expert says that we must change mentality, because “a change of mentality makes life 100%. The fact of changing attitude will allow to change altitude and in that case, it is necessary that the young people are transformed, trained and informed that the work and the best solution to face poverty”, has- he reassured. He regrets, however, the “unfortunate” situation observed among young people, which consists in believing that without the help of the state, it is impossible to have a job. “This behavior is also linked to culture,” he laments. In previous years, those who finished university easily got jobs, but now things have changed,” he warns.
To that end, he invites young Burundians to look for what they want in what they have in their heads, instead of waiting for work from investors or the state. They must realize that they themselves are capable of creating their jobs. Thus, aware of the fact that youth represents an important development asset, several countries have put in place policies and programs in favor of young entrepreneurs. That desire to make youth entrepreneurship a development priority has materialized, for example, by the introduction into secondary education, entrepreneurship training in which African countries, including Burundi, have been the precursors.
Currently, entrepreneurship is inserted into the Burundian education system, especially at the fundamental and post-fundamental level, as an option course which is, according to Dr. Bizimana, a step to be welcomed, but the results of which still leave something to be desired. “Perhaps for lack of competent human resources in this area. But I tell myself that being able to initiate this action is just a step taken and I hope that over time, there will be improvements and adjustments, so that the program is more relevant and productive”, he made the conference participants believe.
Still according to Dr. Bizimana, the state’s part in reducing the unemployment that plagues his youth is nothing other than the establishment of a system allowing investment. Through the latter, he added, there is the creation of companies, which means that there is also the possibility that young people can have work. But also, the government must put in place a capacity building framework for young people.
The situation arises as researchers Gregg and Tominey show that long-term unemployment can have very negative long-term consequences on individuals. Those consequences include reduced income and a feeling of social exclusion. One year of unemployment in the first years of working life can reduce the annual income received at age 42 by up to 21%, while three additional months of unemployment before the age of 23 extend the period by two months, the period of unemployment between 28 and 33 years, it is estimated.
For Mr. Charles Kabwigiri, entrepreneurial expert and professor at the Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Burundi (UB), the problem of youth unemployment constitutes a “time bomb” for Burundi, he has confided during an interview with the Chinese news agency “New China”. For Burundi to succeed in the fight against unemployment among young people, taking into account the development of an entrepreneurial culture among that category of the Burundian people should “be the top priority”, he recommends.