African youth investment banks conceptualised

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TALKS on establishing Africa-wide youth entrepreneurship investment banks have started, with African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina championing the concept.

According to Adesina, Africa’s youth is under-invested and in need of urgent attention.

“Youth entrepreneurship investment banks must become the focus of global support,” said the celebrated Adesina.

He was speaking at a virtual discussion on scaling up financing for the continent’s youth, organised by the Abidjan headquartered bank on Monday.

Ministers and business leaders in the public and private sector were part of the discussion and shared ideas. One of them that joined was Yvonne Otieno, the chief executive officer of Miyonga Fresh Greens – once a journalist, and bookshop attendant.

Otieno urged the world to believe in the youth and to put their hands in their pockets.

“Take a risk on us. You will never regret it,” she said

Otieno runs a farming business growing French beans on 1,5 acres.

“Failure is only a weakness if you don’t learn from it,” stressed Otieno.

With lack of access to finance a serious bottleneck, the proposed youth entrepreneurship investment banks would coordinate financial and non-financial actors and partners to more effectively support youth entrepreneurs.

“We must support the youth to go beyond looking for jobs. We must unleash the entrepreneurial drive and capacities of the youth to create jobs. We must grow, finance and support large scale successes of youth-led businesses in Africa,” said Adesina.

Siding with Adesina was Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya who expressed strong support for the initiative.

“Spain welcomes the African Development Bank’s youth entrepreneurship investment initiative, geared towards unlocking entrepreneurship and promoting the growth of businesses of the youth,” she said.

Ashish ThakkarThakkar, the chair of the African Development Bank’s presidential youth committee advised that the youth investment banks would need to be scalable and self-sustaining.

He said it was very important to create the right incentive structures for governments to encourage the private sector to play a key role.

Research suggests that Africa needs to create 18 to 30 million jobs annually through 2030, and this needs to be treated with urgency, said Ladi Balogun, the chief executive officer of First City Monument Bank Group.

Balogun said time was of the essence in terms of mounting a response as well as accelerating decision-making processes for the extension of financing to entrepreneurs. He also advised working through local money managers to achieve scale.

Participants also commended the African Development Bank for taking a lead in efforts to support youth entrepreneurs, as well as calling on the bank to play a number of roles.

Close to 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent. Youth unemployment is also very high in most African countries.

* Additional report, African Development Bank.