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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

YOUTH CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION: MISSING LINK IN THE EFFORTS TO GROW THE ZIMBABWE ECONOMY

YOUTH CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION: THE MISSING LINK IN   EFFORTS TO GROW THE ZIMBABWE ECONOMY.

Article written by: Ngonidzashe Muzondo.

A nation whose population is largely composed of young people is endowed with great potential for accelerated levels of idea generation, creativity, innovation and enthusiasm for developmental issues.

Youths are the heartbeat and lifeblood of a nation, they are the strength, the carriers of visions and dreams that represent a better tomorrow. Within them is a keen pulsating desire that usually defies odds of negativities and circumstances that are normally staked against them in the quest of their visions.

Young people have an enormous stake in the present and future state of Zimbabwe. Almost half of the human population is under the age of 25. If young people's resources of energy, time, and knowledge are misdirected towards violence,  and unsustainable consumption, civilization risks destabilization. Yet, there is a powerful opportunity for society if young people can participate positively in all aspects of sustainable and economic development. In order to do so, young people need education, political support, resources, skills, and mentorship.

Economic advantage no longer depends on natural resources, cheap raw materials, trade of goods and services or giant factories. Instead, creativity and innovation are now driving the new economy and re-invigorating the old economy. Creativity and innovation now drive the fastest growing economies in the world, and reshaping the global economy. Youths are the source of this creativity and innovation.

In order, to unleash this creativity that is resident in youths, there is need for governments and civil society to set up funds and training programs to establish a culture of youth entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe.  A critical element of the current global crisis is the struggle of young people to enter in the labour market. Young people are three times more likely than adults to be out of a job. For those with a job, the quality of the job is another issue. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates, of the total 200 million unemployed worldwide, 75 million or around 40% are young people.

Entrepreneurship represents an attractive route of solving youth unemployment and an avenue through which young people can unleash the great potentialities and creativity that is lying dormant within them.

Given the right combination of motivation, ideas and opportunities, youth are more than able to establish productive and creative businesses. Engaging in
entrepreneurship shifts young people from being “job seekers” to “job creators,” and also from social dependence to self-sufficiency. Many self-employed youth also contribute to the upkeep of their family, sometimes 
in a leading role in the absence of parents.

Despite these potential benefits, the majority of youth continue to look up to the state for employment rather than creating their own jobs and employing others. This failure of young people to engage in entrepreneurship has also been attributed to a range of factors:   sociocultural attitudes towards youth entrepreneurship,   lack of entrepreneurial training in the school curriculum,     incomplete market information,  absence of business support and  physical infrastructure,  regulatory framework conditions, and  in particular,  poor access to finance.

To improve access to credit in the formal market, a number of African governments and some private organizations (profit and non-profit) have established funds and micro-credit institutions to provide finance to young people. In Zimbabwe, the government partnered with Old Mutual Zimbabwe Limited to create a 10 million dollar youth fund facility and in Zambia,   the government set up a K40 billion Youth Empowerment Fund to provide venture capital to young people with sound business projects.   However, more public and private schemes are needed to increase opportunities for youth.

Providing capital alone to young potential entrepreneurs is only part of the solution. Studies have shown that what is more effective is the provision of capital together with training in managerial and entrepreneurial skills. In South Africa, for example, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF), a government-created development finance agency for skills development and employment creation for youth, has developed a number of initiatives such as micro loans for young entrepreneurs, the creation of a venture-capital fund underwritten by a mainstream bank with the UYF providing guarantees, and the development of a voucher programme to access business development services. 

The determination of young people for self-improvement and their commitment to improving the social, political and economic fabric of society through entrepreneurship is clearly viable and should be pursued vigorously as a policy alternative.