By Bernard Wainaina
Not everyone of our African youth is born an entrepreneur.
Some have to learn business skills and create networks that will serve the businesses that they start later in life by first joining the formal employment.
African governments seem to be shirking the responsibility of creating an enabling environment that will generate formal jobs by buldozing our African youth in starting small businesses by setting up Youth Development Revolving Funds where youths are then called upon to take up loans to start private businesses,that in the end may not meet the objective of job creation.
This is what is now commonly referred to as ‘Hustling’.
If I may be right,the meaning of the word hustle is-(a) Pressure someone
into doing something:
‘don’t be hustled into anything unless you
really want to’
(b)Obtain illicitly or by forceful action:
Eg.‘Linda hustled money from men she met’
This is not the kind of life that Africa should be throwing our youth into.
It is demeaning to say the least,and dims the high expectations of our African youth.
African governments should do more to generate more formal jobs for our youth.
We should not be throwing them into retirement kind of businesses even before they start on their adult life immediately after school.
They deserve structured careers,and their choice to go into businesses should be solely a personal decision.not a coerced one.
I believe most African youth just want a job, an eight-to-five with a decent wage and access to affordable and reliable services.
I also believe that as successive African governments find it difficult to build an economy that can supply this modest desire of the
unemployed workforce, they have found a way to shirk this responsibility by passing the burden to the people to create their own employment.
My opinion of the fallacy of this approach is based on three premises.
The first is that not all persons are gifted with entrepreneurship.
And as economists tell us, entrepreneurship, while it can be learnt to some degree, is largely innate.
Its essence, being the ability, often in fact the desire, to take risks with one’s financial security,sometimes even life, true entrepreneurship is rare.
But even if the youth are wheedled and prodded, as the government is doing, into taking the funds and
starting new business, the predictable end result is that most of the Youth revolving funds will be lost in the hands of hundreds of persons with no business acumen.
The second premise of my hypothesis is that the African governments have assumed the universality of the
desire of the workforce and the unemployed to become traders.
While this may be true of some people, and whereas there are even sectors of the population to whom commerce has become part of their socio- economic dynamics, this assumption cannot be held for the larger portion of the population.
It is little wonder then that the Youth Revolving Funds are attracting so few applicants.
However, ever since civil servants were allowed to
engage in business(they are not actually real businessmen,but government “tender-preneurs who use their office to win lucrative government tenders!) and the average politician became the person who had financial ability,invariably from engaging in commerce, but often actually in corruption, policymakers in Africa have
assumed that all people want to do likewise.
They cannot contemplate that anyone one would want anything less.
Which brings me to the third premise, and that is that further to confining policymakers to this snobbish outlook, this approach serves a critical political purpose.
Successive African governments have used this approach as a way to abdicate the responsibility to
expand the economy to create jobs and to pass on the responsibility to a clueless proletariat.
Whenever any African government is put to task on job creation, its standard response is to state the amount of money it has set aside for business and to quote unverifiable statistics of jobs created in the informal sector for our African Youth.
To create growth, governments must formulate and implement bold policy initiatives and lay out huge capital investment in the targeted sectors.
For instance, the colonial governments invested in infrastructure, notably a harbour and railway line, and in the introduction of cash crops.
The independence governments, in the years they worked for Africans, marketed Africa as a tourist
destination, implemented many irrigation schemes, set up research institutes that came up with viable animals and crops for drought and pest- infested areas, invested heavily in hydro-electricity and many more such initiatives.
Today, we do not come up with anything new to keep up with our changing realities.
Indeed, the likely “new idea” in Africa is either a poor innovation of an old policy from the 1960s or an
inapplicable imitation of an equally old idea from Singapore and Malaysia.
Had the amount of money being poured into projects such as Konza ICT hub City in Kenya and the standard gauge railway in East Africa and Ethiopia been invested in activities in which most Africans are directly engaged in, it would
produce astronomical economic benefits within unbelievably shorter periods of time.
“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®